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FG Confirms Some COVID-19 Vaccines Expired

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Osagie Ehanire Minister for Health
Osagie Ehanire Minister for Health

Federal Government has confirmed that within the last month, some COVID-19 vaccines expired in the country.

However, according to the government, the vaccines are said to have been withdrawn and will be destroyed by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

A Reuters report earlier on Wednesday stated that not less than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have expired in the last one month in Nigeria.

The report quoted two sources with direct knowledge of vaccine delivery and use stating that the expired doses were made by AstraZeneca, delivered from Europe and supplied via COVAX, the dose-sharing facility led by GAVI vaccine alliance and World Health Organization, WHO.

According to the report, a third source with knowledge of the delivery confirmed that some of the doses arrived within four-to-six weeks of expiry and could not be used in time, despite efforts by health authorities, even as the total count of the expired doses is still underway and an official number is yet to be finalised.

Reacting in a statement on Wednesday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, noted that donation of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with short/expiring shelf lives has been of great concern internationally.

Ehanire, however, assured that the government has been handling the situation effectively, upholding the greatest standards for the safety of all Nigerians.

He stated;

Nigeria has utilized most of the over 10m short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far supplied to us, in good time, and saved N16.4B or more than $40m in foreign exchange. The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC.

The Minister of Health noted that Nigeria has of late enjoyed the generosity of several, mainly European countries, who have offered doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of their stockpiles, free of charge, through COVAX or AVAT facility.

Adding that while these donations are always acknowledged and thankfully received, the minister expressed that some of them had residual shelf lives of only a few months after deduction of time to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users.

Ehanire further disclosed that if such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottlenecks occasionally arise.

He additionally noted that the challenge of short shelf lives, is always communicated to the donors whereupon some manufacturers offer to extend the vaccine shelf life after the fact, by 3 months, a practice that, though is accepted by experts, is declined by Federal Ministry of Health.

According to the health minister, this practice is frowned upon in Nigeria because it is not accommodated in the nation’s standards.

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