By Esther Adesulu
To enable beneficiary countries have enough time to plan and execute a rollout before they expire, Africa’s top public health organisations have called for donated COVID-19 vaccines to come with a shelf life of at least three to six months.
John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centresfor Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, said 2.8 million doses of vaccine had expired on the continent, which is roughly 0.5% of the accumulated 572 million doses donated so far.
“In terms of the 0.5%, let me be very clear, any dose of vaccine that expired pains me because that is a life that can be potentially saved,” Nkengasong told a news briefing on Thursday
Last week, Uganda for instance announced plans to destroy 400,000 doses of covid 19 vaccines which were meant to be utilized in a mass vaccination exercise due to the same reason.
Nigeria also destroyed over one million expired doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, in December last year.
In a separate briefing, the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, echoed Nkengasong’s call.
“Many countries indicate that they would like vaccines to be donated with at least three months of shelf life, if not more,” Moeti said.
Nkengasong explained that said the expired doses are usually among those donated by individual countries or via the global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, which arrive with “very short notice”.
In contrast, doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine acquired by African countries via a scheme organised by the 55-member African Union and delivered with a longer shelf life had not expired, he said.
He said some countries were now refusing to accept vaccines when they saw that the shelf life was only one or two months.
“They prefer not to receive those vaccines because it will create a narrative that vaccines have expired in their countries,” he said,
Nkengasong said 10.4% of Africans were fully vaccinated, a percentage lagging far behind most other parts of the world.