Malawi destroys nearly 20,000 expired Covid-19 shots

South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses over the expiration issue

Image: REUTERS/ DADO RUVIC

Malawi on Wednesday destroyed 19,610 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that expired 18 days after arriving, despite assurances from the AU and World Health Organisation (WHO) that the vaccines were safe until mid-July.

A batch of 102,000 vaccines arrived on March 26, under an initiative by the AU and WHO, and they expired on April 13, leaving less than three weeks for them to be used. Malawi managed to deploy about 80% of them by that time.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Africa), part of the AU, told a news conference late in April that the shots could be used until July 13, based on a further analysis conducted by manufacturers the Serum Institute of India (SII).

He and the WHO also urged African countries not to waste vaccines donated to them.

However, the Malawian government said it would not give expired vaccines to its citizens.

We are destroying (them) because, as government policy ... no expired vaccine has ever been used

“We are destroying (them) because, as government policy ... no expired vaccine has ever been used,” said health minister Khumbize Chaponda, at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the administrative capital, Lilongwe.

She then threw the shots, which were wrapped in red plastic bags, into an incinerator.

“On behalf of the government I assure all Malawians that no-one will be given an expired Covid vaccine,” she said.

An Africa CDC official declined to comment. 

The SII did not immediately respond to a request for comment. India’s drug regulator in March allowed the SII-produced AstraZeneca vaccine to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, as opposed to the earlier six months.

South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiration issue.

Malawi’s health ministry said the country had administered 335,232 vaccine doses as of May 18, and recorded 34,231 Covid-19 infections and 1,153 deaths.

African countries have struggled to secure enough vaccines to roll out mass immunisation. Many rely on supplies from global vaccine scheme Covax, which is co-led by the WHO and partners including the Gavi vaccines alliance.

Reuters


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