The Federal Government says it has started rejecting COVID-19 vaccines with short shelf life or those that cannot be delivered on time.Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said this while reacting to the report that one million COVID vaccines in the country have expired.
Citing at least two sources, Reuters said the expired doses were made by AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and delivered from Europe.
They were supplied via COVAX, the dose-sharing facility led by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO which is increasingly reliant on donations.
It had described the development as one of the biggest single losses of doses that highlights the difficulty African nations have getting shots in arms.
But responding in a statement, Ehanire said Nigeria has utilised most of the over 10 million short-shelf-life doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far supplied to it, in good time, and saved N16.4 billion or more than $40million in foreign exchange.
The said the vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
He said donation of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to developing countries has been a matter of international discussion.
The minister said developing countries like Nigeria accept them “because they close our critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save us scarce foreign exchange procurement cost”.
He said, “This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves.
“The 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 said donors also recognise a need to give away unused vaccines, before they expire in their own stock, but they need to begin the process early enough and create a well-oiled pathway for prompt shipment and distribution through the COVAX and AVAT facilities, to reduce risk of expiration.
“With better coordination, vaccines need not expire in the stock of Donors or Recipients,” he said.
He said Nigeria has, of late enjoyed the generosity of several, mainly European countries, who have offered doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of their stockpiles, free of charge, through COVAX or AVAT facility.
He said the long term measure to prevent such incident is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration.
“This is why the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity. This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication, ” he added.