Why are a fifth of Austria’s vaccine doses still sitting in storage?

Why are a fifth of Austria’s vaccine doses still sitting in storage?
Photo: Phil Noble/AFP
One fifth of Austria’s vaccine doses are sitting in cold storage. With vaccine demand far outstripping supply, why have these shots not been administered?

As of Tuesday, March 2nd, of the 825,315 vaccine doses delivered in Austria, only 653,382 have been administered – or around 79 percent of the total doses. 

The data comes from the European Union’s health authority ECDC. 

Why are a fifth of Austria’s vaccine doses still sitting in storage?

With Austria’s vaccination scheme lagging and demand for vaccinations high, some have begun to question why so many doses remain on the shelves. 

Why have these doses not been made available to the public? 

According to the Austrian Ministry of Health, the major reason for the stockpile is federalism. 

Administering the vaccines is the responsibility of Austria’s nine states, meaning that the responsibility for lagging vaccinations does not lie at the federal level. 

Another reason is the sheer scale of the vaccination campaign. With vaccinations carried out daily all across the country “warehouses will never be completely empty” said the Ministry of Health. 

“We vaccinate intensively on a daily basis, planned and of course precautions must also be taken for the second vaccination cycle. The camps will therefore never be completely empty”, a spokesperson said. 

State governors on Monday promised that all doses will be administered as soon as possible, Die Presse reports. 

Is the government’s partial rejection of the AstraZeneca vaccine to blame? 

Austria on Tuesday decided not to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s, just one week after indicating it would. 

On February 24th, the head of Austria’s Vaccination Board Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt said she will ask health minister Rudolph Anschober to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for seniors. 

Austria’s Health Ministry indicated on Monday there was not enough information to overturn the previous recommendation that the vaccine be available for under 65s, Austria’s Der Standard newspaper reports

“The current recommendation was confirmed” said the Health Ministry on Monday. 

“Based on only very few cases of the disease, no reliable statements about the effectiveness of this vaccine for people over 65 are possible at this point in time,” it said.

However, the 20 percent of vaccine doses sitting on the shelf are not only from AstraZeneca, but also from Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech. 

Of the Moderna vaccine, 73,200 doses were delivered, of which only 20,265 were administered (27 percent). 

In total, 596,115 Biotech-Pfizer doses have been delivered, 540,643 of which have been administered so far (90 percent)

Austria has received 156,000 doses from AstraZeneca, 92,474 of which were used (59 percent). 

Where does Austria rank in Europe? 

Austria ranks seventh in Europe when it comes to the percentage of vaccine doses administered. 

Estonia and Lithuania have used 100 percent of their delivered doses, while Denmark – the EU’s vaccination leader – has administered 93 percent of delivered doses. 

At the other end, Hungary is the only European country to have carried out less than 50 percent of delivered doses (44.6 percent). 

Germany (67.8 percent) and France (63.7 percent) have also carried out fewer vaccinations than Austria. 


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