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Nigeria says it got COVID-19 vaccines with expiring shelf life

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
08 December 2021   |   2:49 pm
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has reacted to media reports alleging that about 1 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine expired in Nigeria last month.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has reacted to media reports alleging that about 1 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine expired in Nigeria last month.

He argued that the long term measure to prevent such incidents is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines so that vaccines produced to have at least 12 months to expiration.

Reuters had reported that up to one million COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have expired in Nigeria last month without being used.

According to two sources who spoke to Reuters, it was one of the biggest single losses of doses that shows the difficulty of African nations in getting shots.

Ehanire, however,  observed that donation of surplus Covid-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to developing countries has been a matter of international discussion.

He explained that developing countries like Nigeria accept them because they close the nation’s critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save us scarce foreign exchange procurement cost.

“Some of them had residual shelf lives of only few months that left us 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,” Ehanire said on Wednesday.

He noted that this dilemma is not typical to Nigeria. He said many low- and medium-income countries have experienced the same, adding that vaccines that expired had been withdrawn, and will be destroyed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

The minister said that the federal Ministry of Health shares its experience with partners regularly and now politely declines all vaccine donations with short shelf life or those that cannot be delivered in time.

Ehanire explained that Nigeria has utilised most of the over 10m short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far supplied to the country, 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“The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC,” he said.

The minister pointed out that the federal government 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.

He explained that Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond the labelled expiry date.