African countries urged not to waste vaccines after expiry confusion

The African Union’s disease control body and World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday urged African countries not to waste COVID-19 vaccines donated to them, after confusion in Malawi and South Sudan about whether doses they received had expired.

“My appeal to member states is: if we are doing our part to mobilise these vaccines, you do your part and use the vaccines,” Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a news conference.

Malawi has said it plans to destroy more than 16,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India because the shots were not administered before the April 13 expiry date on the packaging. The doses were supplied via the African Union (AU) thanks to a donation from telecoms group MTN

South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiry issue, a government official told Reuters last week.

But Dr Nkengasong, the continent’s top public health official, said the Africa CDC had informed countries receiving the donations that the shots could be used until July 13, based on a further analysis conducted by the Serum Institute.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Africa director, told a separate briefing that the shots made by the Serum Institute should be stored until more information was available.

“My understanding is that the expiry date could be several months longer than had initially been envisaged. But we will look for the definitive information,” she said.

A spokesman for Malawi’s Health Ministry said on Thursday that he was not aware of Dr Nkengasong’s comments but that the decision to incinerate the AstraZeneca doses was in line with government guidelines on expired pharmaceutical products.

“My understanding is that the expiry date could be several months longer than had initially been envisaged. But we will look for the definitive information,” she said.

A spokesman for Malawi’s Health Ministry said on Thursday that he was not aware of Dr Nkengasong’s comments but that the decision to incinerate the AstraZeneca doses was in line with government guidelines on expired pharmaceutical products.

He added that more than 80 per cent of the 102,000 doses donated via the AU had been used before April 13. -Reuters

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