Health experts in Malawi have burned 19,610 expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a way that reassures the public any vaccines they receive are fit for consumption.
Malawi stands out being the first African country to publicly do this after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries not to destroy expired doses.
WHO, however, changed its directive in a statement dated 17th May.
“While discarding vaccines is deeply regrettable in the context of any immunization programme, WHO recommends that these expired doses should be removed from the distribution chain and safely disposed of.”
Malawi has in the recent past received low acceptance of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health workers anticipate that the move will raise public confidence.
The country’s coronavirus record stands at 34,232 confirmed cases and 1,153 deaths out of a population of about 18 million people
Malawi received 102,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it acquired from the African Union on 26 March.
The expiry date on the labels read 13th April and officials said the lifespan was limited to use them all, so they ended up using almost 80%.
Officials, therefore, destroyed thousands of COVID-19 vaccines, leaving behind remnants of broken bottles.
According to Malawi’s principal health secretary, it was unfortunate they had to destroy the vaccines but the initiative is of more good than harm.
“When news spread that we had out-of-date vaccines, we noticed that people were not coming to our clinics to get immunized,” said Dr Charles Mwansambo.
“If we don’t burn them, people will think that we are using expired vaccines in our facilities and if they don’t come, Covid-19 will hit them hard,” he added.
The Malawi government has received an additional 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine-sharing facility and 50,000 sourced directly from India.
It urges everyone above 18 years old to get a jab as they still have adequate stocks of vaccines.
By Everlyne Bosibori