On Wednesday, Nigerian government destroyed over 1 million COVID-19 vaccines withdrawn from across the country after being identified for having a short shelf life.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) monitored the exercise at a dumpsite in a suburb of Abuja, the Nigerian capital. Authorities took the decision to join other African nations which earlier destroyed vaccines for the same reason, to boost the confidence of Nigerian citizens in the ongoing vaccination program nationwide.
“We withdrew about 1,066,214, doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccine from across the country,” NPHCDA Director Faisal Shuaib said, noting that the vaccines might still be potent before health authorities took the decision to withdraw them. The manufacturers of those doses of vaccine offered to extend the shelf life but is declined by the Nigerian government.
“The work we do is the work that requires trust. It is a sacred trust that has been bestowed on us by the generality of Nigerians. A few months ago, when these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had a short shelf life. But we were living in an environment where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines was very scarce,” the NPHCDA director pointed out.
More than 10 million people have been vaccinated so far against COVID-19 in Nigeria. Over 1 million COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have expired in Nigeria in November without being used. And the expired doses were made by AstraZeneca and delivered from Europe.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire explained that the vaccines, which were donated by COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), had residual shelf lives, leaving the country with “a limited period to facilitate distribution and usage.”
The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn and will be destroyed. The dilemma is not typical for Nigeria, but a situation many low- and medium-income countries find themselves in. Ehanire urged donors to begin the process early enough and create a well-oiled pathway for prompt shipment and distribution to reduce risk of expiration.