By the end of August, the Ministry of Health could lose almost 28 million doses of vaccines against Covid-19 purchased at R$1.23 billion if immunizations are not applied by then.
The batches accumulate at a time when coverage is stagnant and the Jair Bolsonaro government (PL) disdains the loss of breath of the vaccination campaign.
There are at least 26 million units of Astrazeneca and 1.92 million doses of Pfizer that expire in the next two months (11.72 million and 16.35 million expire, respectively, in July and August).
The data, which are kept confidential by Saúde, were collected by the TCU (Union Court of Auditors) in a report obtained by the Sheet.
The discovery was made by auditors from the Department of External Health Control (SecexSaúde) of the court, in inspection of the Dlog (Department of Health Logistics) of the Ministry of Health in May this year.
According to the report, each dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine cost R$41.83. In the case of Pfizer, the value is R$ 66.89. The lots that can win add up to R$ 1.09 billion and R$ 128.66 million, respectively.
The two vaccine models are pointed out by the Ministry of Health itself as a priority in strengthening immunization against Covid-19.
“The information brought by SecexSaúde is perplexing, especially those related to the stock of vaccines that may expire in the coming months”, said Minister Vital do Rêgo, rapporteur of the case, in an order this Wednesday ( 15).
The survey was included in the investigation opened by the court on the loss of validity of the Health stocks after the Sheet reveal, in September 2021, that the Bolsonaro government did not deliver medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tests valued at more than BRL 240 million on time. The data were also sent to the office of deputy Luis Miranda (Republicans-DF), whose work has focused on information on expired drugs.
The Ministry of Health sent 19.53 million doses of Covid vaccines to the states in April and May 2022, that is, less than the stock that expires in the next two months.
The federal government has 83 million doses in stock today, according to data released on the Health website.
The TCU audit also states that from September to the end of this year another 24.85 million vaccines expire.
Sought, Health did not respond about vaccines that may lose their validity. Nor did he comment on the slowdown in the vaccination campaign.
The ministry only said, in a note, that it “performs regular distributions” of Covid vaccines, “according to the schedule defined by the finalistic secretariats”. “All inputs are delivered within the expiration date,” the ministry declared.
The ministry said that 500 million vaccines have already been delivered in the pandemic and stated that it “reinforces the importance of the second dose and the booster dose”. “The Ministry of Health also recommends that states and municipalities actively search for the population to complete the vaccination schedule against Covid-19”, said the agency.
Vital, from the TCU, said that the possibility of losing a high amount of vaccines “in a developing country such as Brazil, where more than 668 thousand lives have been lost to Covid-19 to date” is “appalling and worrying” and “at a time when we are facing a new wave of virus contamination”.
“The danger of the reverse delay is undone in the face of the need and urgency to promote the vaccination of the population to contain both the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the increase in serious cases of the said disease”, said Vital.
He determined that Health “take the necessary actions” to avoid the loss of vaccines that are in stock, especially those whose expiration dates expire in July and August.
The TCU stated that the initiatives must involve states and municipalities, if applicable, and that Health must inform the measures adopted within 15 days.
The rapporteur of the case at the TCU also pointed out that the private health network is starting to apply the Astrazeneca vaccine for about R$ 250 to R$ 350 per dose.
Vital do Rêgo called it “unusual” to have a stock of vaccines with expiration dates in the SUS while private clinics import the same doses. The stock accumulates in Health at the moment of stagnation of the campaign against Covid.
TCU technicians also pointed out that Health could already have taken several measures to avoid the loss of vaccines, such as strengthening communication campaigns, in addition to donating doses to other countries.
In an interview with Sheet in early June, Minister Marcelo Queiroga treated with disdain the drop in the pace of immunization and said he had already spent “a fortune” to promote the application of doses. SUS managers have demanded a reaction from the Bolsonaro government to the drop in the pace of immunization.
“We want to achieve 90% vaccination coverage in all age groups”, said the president of Conass (National Council of Health Secretaries), Nésio Fernandes, in early June.
Since 2018, Saúde has hidden data on stocks of medicines, vaccines and other products. General Ridauto Ribeiro, director of Logistics at the ministry, even increased confidentiality on this data in April.
In early June, however, the TCU cited the revelations of Sheet and ordered Health to release data on inventories, including expired products.
On Tuesday (14), Health asked the court to keep this data secret, using an opinion from the AGU (Advocacy-General of the Union) that argued that the TCU has no competence to annul the secrecy on the products. The folder promised only to disclose information about products already discarded and did not respond if it keeps expired Covid-19 vaccines.
The court also found that Saúde plans to spend R$10 million to dispose of 26 million surgical gowns received from China.
Saúde would have argued that the aprons are useless, but the audit team found that “most of the boxes of aprons stored today do not show any sign of damage, at least not visible to the naked eye”.
Court technicians also say that “employees who received and stored the products stated that there were few containers whose cargoes arrived in poor condition, [e que] most arrived in perfect condition”.
The rapporteur also collected data on the donation of aprons. He asks Health to show that it has surveyed the demand for the aprons before accepting the shipment.
Vital also asked for information on how much the government has already spent to receive, stock and dispose of these products. In addition to what amount must still be paid to incinerate the aprons remaining in stock.
The director of Health Logistics said in May that one of the ideas behind the secrecy of the stock is to prevent the industry from using the data to charge more.
“If the person who is going to sell me knows that I am desperate to buy, for example, because the product is running out, the price goes there in the cloud”, said the general of the reserve. The technical area of the TCU considers that “there is no plausibility” in the argument presented by Fernandes.