The Pandemrix vaccine was bought up by German state health authorities under orders to make sure they had enough vaccine to cover a third of the population, as the swine flu spread, eventually killing 252 people in Germany.
Yet it soon emerged that only one dose was needed to provoke the desired physical response in patients rather than two as initially thought – and the authorities managed to strike a deal with producer GlaxoSmithKline to get them out of the original deal.
But the flu was much milder than expected, and this, combined with safety fears over the new vaccine, led to only around seven percent of Germans opting to get the vaccine.
Attempts to sell the remaining stocks to other countries largely failed, leaving health authorities sitting on millions of doses of unwanted vaccine – hanging onto them in case they could prove useful before their use-by date. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung estimated this summer that what remained was worth €250 million.
That date has now passed and trucks loaded with the vaccine were expected at an incineration plant in Magdeburg, Saxony Anhalt, on Tuesday morning.