Malawi health authorities have destroyed 19,610 doses of expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, stating that the move would boost public confidence in the country’s vaccine programme.
Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda put some of the vials of the expired doses into an incinerator to start the destruction yesterday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital.
“We are destroying these vaccines because as government policy no expired health commodities are to be used,” she said. “Historically under the expanded immunisation programme of Malawi no expired vaccine has ever been used.”
She said burning the vaccines will build public confidence that all vaccines used in Malawi are good.
“We are destroying publicly in order to stay accountable to Malawians. The vaccines that expired are not being used during the vaccination campaign,” she said.
“On behalf of the government, I assure all Malawians that no one will be given an expired COVID vaccine.”
The doses were part of a batch of 102,000 vaccines which arrived on March 26, under an initiative by the African Union and the World Health Organisation.
They expired on April 13, leaving less than three weeks for them to be used. Malawi managed to deploy about 80 percent of them by that time.
Malawi will still have adequate stocks of COVID-19 vaccines in public and private health facilities, he said.
Last month, the WHO urged African nations not to destroy expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several countries received doses from India with a very short shelf life. But this week, WHO reversed its position and said the vaccines should be destroyed.
South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiration issue.