The Nigerian government on Wednesday destroyed 1,066,242 doses of expired Oxford-Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccines.
The executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this while addressing journalists before the destruction at the Idu dumpsite in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Mr Shuaib said the expired vaccines were withdrawn from states in the country.
The executive director said; “These vaccines did not expire before we decided to withdraw them and today is an opportunity for Nigerians to have further faith in our vaccination programme.
“We had the option if we were to take the advice of some experts to try and use these vaccines even beyond the label expiry date, but working together with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), we took that decision to destroy these vaccines at the point that they got expired.”
He said the government took the action not only to safeguard the health of Nigerians but to also engender trust in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored safely in refrigerated conditions for up to six months. But some of these vaccines are given with a short shelf life before expiration, hence countries struggle to administer them.
Nigeria is not the first African country to publicly destroy its expired vaccines.
Many thousands of vaccines doses have been destroyed in other countries because they exceeded their expiry dates. Others are being returned by countries saying they will be unable to use them before they expire.
Malawi was the first country to destroy over 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines, followed by South Sudan which destroyed almost 60,000 doses.
Both countries had received these vaccines from the African Union but had not been able to administer them by their expiry date or April 13, 2021.
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African countries like Liberia, Mauritania, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also destroyed some expired COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, speaking at the event, the director-general of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, said as part of the mandate of the agency, it had taken up the responsibility of destroying the expired COVID-19 vaccines.
Mrs Adeyeye noted that Nigeria was the only country with a unique immunisation programme.
“What we are witnessing today is a continuous unfolding of the fact that the best is for all Nigerians because Nigerians deserve the best in terms of quality of medicines and vaccines,” she said.
She explained that when the vaccines got into the country, it was delivered to the NPHCDA which is the marketing authorisation holder.
“They are the ones that received it because it is their primary job to immunize the country. However, we have been working night and day together.
“And what he said about the vaccines coming with short expiration dates pose a challenge to us as a country,” she said.
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