The Nigerian government has confirmed the report of the expiration of doses of vaccines supplied to the country, blaming the development on the short-shelf lives of the vaccines.
In a statement personally signed by the health minister, Osagie Ehanire, and dated December 8, 2021, the government said the expired vaccines had been withdrawn and will be destroyed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the country’s agency in charge of drug and foods standards.
The minister, however, failed to confirm the number of the expired vaccines or their brand.
But sources familiar with the vaccine management in Nigeria confirmed to Reuters that the expired doses were of AstraZeneca (AZN.L) brand and delivered via COVAX, the dose-sharing facility led by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO.
Although Reuters reported that 1 million doses have gone to waste, an insider who spoke anonymously Wednesday morning with PREMIUM TIMES for fear of victimisation, said the figures were exaggerated, but confirmed some doses expired in November.
Amidst the biting consequences of vaccine scarcity being experienced in Africa, about one million COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have expired in Nigeria in November without being used, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
According to WHO, only about four per cent of Nigeria’s estimated 206 million population have been fully vaccinated.
Another source with knowledge of the delivery said some of the doses arrived within four-to-six weeks of expiry and could not be used in time, despite efforts by health authorities.
A count of the expired doses is still underway and an official number is yet to be finalised, the sources said.
“Nigeria is doing everything it can. But it’s struggling with short shelf life vaccines,” one told Reuters. “Now (supply is) unpredictable and they’re sending too much.”
A spokesperson for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)- the body responsible for vaccinations in Nigeria- told Reuters, the number of vaccines received and used is still being tallied and it would share its findings in the coming days.
The WHO said doses had expired, but declined to give a figure. It said 800,000 additional doses that had been at risk of expiry in October were all used in time.