[VaccineWatch] Is Switzerland destroying millions of mRNA vaccines that nobody wants?

We came across the following claim on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Reddit and the Russian platform vKontakte. It was also published on the website eugyppius.com, which appears to be the origin of the claim.

Eugyppius.com, a substack website which describes itself as a ‘plague chronicle’, claims to record through its articles cases of the ‘unprecedented, comprehensive failure of policy, medicine and science’ that it says the world is witnessing. It has thousands of paid subscribers.

On an article written on the website on 8 January, the author of the post suggests that Switzerland is ‘slated to destroy millions of mRNA vaccines’ this year, as nobody, including old people or people in Africa, wanted the ‘snake oil’ anymore.

The author adds that the Covax initiative to secure Covid-19 vaccine doses for developing countries had failed because ‘enormous majorities everywhere’ were ‘done with mass vaccination’. The author suggests that this indicated that ‘billions across the world harbour unexpressed scepticism towards the mRNA Covid vaccines’.

Source and Destroy

The claims that Switzerland may have to destroy millions of Covid-19 vaccines do seem to be accurate, and the NZZ newspaper reported on 6 January that Switzerland currently has 13.5 million vaccine doses available for its population of 8.7 million, and it is due to receive another 11.6 million doses. The NZZ article also relates that many of these doses will have to be destroyed over the coming year.

News reports in the last few months show that this is not a new development. Reuters and the Straits Times have both reported in the last few months that Switzerland had to destroy millions of its vaccines. NZZ, Reuters and the Straits Times all point out that the destroyed vaccines were expired, a detail omitted by the social media claims.

A closer glance at the reports, however, show no evidence that supports the claims of scepticism towards mRNA vaccines. The Swiss health ministry informed the Straits Times that it ordered excess doses from multiple manufacturers to avoid reliance on potentially ineffective vaccines and delivery issues, and the mRNA vaccine’s effectiveness left Switzerland with a large surplus of doses.

Reuters also quoted the government as saying, ‘with this deliberately chosen strategy, it was accepted that too much vaccine would be procured and that some of the procured doses would have to be sold, passed on or possibly destroyed’.

Rather than scepticism towards mRNA vaccines, fatigue towards vaccines and Covid-19 in general appears to have set in. Only 12.16% of the Swiss population had had a vaccine dose in the last six months, but almost 70% of the population had had at least one dose of the same vaccines over a longer period of time.

Falsehoods, Fatigue and Failing Logistics

Switzerland is not alone in this position, as countries such as Canada have also had to destroy large numbers of vaccines. This phenomenon also appears to be affecting developing countries—the BBC reported in October 2022 that an Indian vaccine maker had to destroy 100 million doses of the non-mRNA AstraZeneca vaccine because ‘people now seem fed up with Covid’.

The Council on Foreign Relations, a US-based think tank, notes that as of December 2022, one-third of the world’s population had yet to receive a dose of the vaccine, with many of the unvaccinated located in Africa.

Nevertheless, it may not be accurate to suggest that countries in Africa did not want mRNA vaccines or that the vaccines were ineffective ‘snake oil’. Developing countries may lack absorption capacity and the resources needed to get vaccines where they are needed, and may therefore choose not to accept vaccines that are close to expiry to avoid logistical bottlenecks.

COVAX, the international initiative for equitable access to vaccines, has also been successful in delivering 1.88bn doses to 146 countries so far.

The claims in the posts that Switzerland is destroying millions of Covid-19 doses are true. However, the rationale within the posts that this is due to scepticism over the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines is untrue. Rather, this is due to deliberate excess procurement, vaccine fatigue, and an inability to efficiently transfer vaccine doses to countries that need them before they expire.

As such, we rate the claims on eugyppius.com and the social media platforms as containing some factual elements, but misleading in nature.

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