The Federal Government has stated that it does not administer expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to its citizens.
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, made this known in a statement on Wednesday while reacting to a report claiming that the country has in its possession one million doses of expired COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the minister, the vaccines which expired in November were gotten from some European countries through the COVAX initiative and had been destroyed since their expiration date.
Ehanire asserted that Nigeria now “politely declines all vaccine donations with short shelf life or those that cannot be delivered in time”.
He said: “Nigeria has, of late enjoyed the generosity of several, mainly European countries, who have offered us doses of Covid-19 vaccines out of their stockpiles, free of charge, through COVAX or AVAT facility.
“These donations are always acknowledged and thankfully received: however, some of them had residual shelf lives of only a few months that left us a very short time, some just weeks, to use them, after deduction of time to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users. If such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottlenecks occasionally arise.
“We appreciate the kind gesture of donors, but also communicated the challenge of short shelf lives, whereupon some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life after the fact, by 3 months, a practice that, though accepted by experts, is declined by the Federal Ministry of Health, because it is not accommodated in our standards. Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond labelled expiry date. We continue to adhere to our rigorous standards.”
Ehanire added that Nigeria had administered over 10 million doses of short-life vaccines, stressing that the government had informed countries that most of the vaccines donated to Nigeria have residual shelf lives.
He added: “Donation of surplus Covid-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to Developing Countries has been a matter of international discussion.
”Developing countries like Nigeria accept them because they close our critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save us scarce foreign exchange procurement cost. This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves.
“Donors also recognize a need to give away unused vaccines, before they expire in their own stock, but they need to begin the process early enough and create a well-oiled pathway for prompt shipment and distribution through the COVAX and AVAT facilities, to reduce risk of expiration. With better coordination, vaccines need not expire in the stock of Donors or Recipients.
“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.”
Ehanire said one of the ways to curb incidents of expired vaccines is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines that will have at least 12 months expiration life.
“The long term measure to prevent such incident is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration. This is why the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track the establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity. This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication,” he said.
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