Malawi has refused to use expired doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the government saying they would go ahead with plans to destroy the vaccines.
The WHO and Africa CDC had urged countries not to destroy expired doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. They said that the vaccines remained safe for usage.
Destroy expired vials
However, according to VOA News, the Malawi government said it would go ahead with the plans to destroy the thousands of expired COVID vaccines. Officials in Malawi said that they had 16,440 doses of AstraZeneca that had expired on April 13.
“It is a requirement that every manufactured vial has an expiry date beyond which it cannot be used,” Malawi’s Health Secretary-General, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, said.
“In this case, we cannot proceed with the usage beyond the expiry date. Any doctor or physician would not be forgiven in anything happens after knowingly using a vial that is labelled as having expired,”
Furthermore, Mwansambo said that if they used the expired stock on people, it would scare them from taking the jabs of the remaining stock. Keeping them in stock, even without using them, he said, would make people hesitant that they were getting expired vaccines.
“If we leave or store the expired vaccine vials, that will be a big blow to the vaccination drive, and people will not come.”
However, he said that the government was considering extending the shelf-life of the remaining vaccine stock. These vaccines came through COVAX. The expired vaccines were part of 102,000 doses that Malawi received as donations in March from the Africa Union.
Also planning to destroy expired vaccines was South Sudan. Both countries add up to about 70,000 expired vaccine doses they want to destroy.
Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe also backed up Mwansambo. Jobe said that if the expired vaccines were safe, then WHO could take them and donate them to developed countries.
Vaccination in Africa and other emerging economies has faced multiple hurdles. These challenges have seen the continent lag in vaccine administration.