The health authorities in Malawi have publicly disposed of 19,610 doses of expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
While explaining the reason for the public disposal, Health Minister Kandodo Chiponda expressed that the move would boost public confidence in the country’s vaccine programme.
“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.”
“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 added.
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 Organization. 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 Health Secretary Charles Mwansambo added that the country would still have adequate stocks of COVID-19 vaccines in public and private health facilities.
Last month, the WHO urged African nations not to destroy expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several countries continued to receive batches from India with a very short shelf life. However, the 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 currently not using them because of the same expiration issue.
The Ministry of Health said the country had administered 335,232 vaccine doses as of May 18, and recorded 34,231 COVID infections and 1,153 deaths.