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Government destroys expired Covid vaccines

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The Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday destroyed 19,610 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine which expired in April this year as one way of fostering public confidence in the safety of doses currently being administered.

The incineration involved exposing the expired vaccines—which are normally kept under two to eight degrees Celsius—to high temperatures of more  than 300 degrees Celsius and also defacing the vials, if not bursting, for them to become inaccessible and unacceptable for use.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the destruction, which happened at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, was done to ensure that the expired vaccines are not used in the healthcare service delivery system.

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“The reason the vaccine expired is not that we had too many to use or absorb in the vaccination campaign but, rather, they were of short life by the time we received the donation,” she said.

Malawi has become the first African country to destroy expired Covid vaccines, through a ceremony that also attracted the attention of the international media including the British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America as well as Anti- Corruption Bureau, police and civil society organisations.

Before the vaccines were taken into the incineration machine, MoH officials, led by Kandodo Chiponda, sampled them to verify quantity as taken from different districts.

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They also made sure that each dose had been dumped into the machine.

She later said the country felt vindicated for making the decision to destroy expired vaccines, saying the World Health Organisation (WHO) had rescinded its earlier plea against destroying expired vaccines.

“We are destroying publicly to stay accountable to Malawians that the vaccines that expired are not being used during the vaccination campaign and, on behalf of the Malawi Government, I assure all Malawians that no one will be given expired Covid vaccines,” she said.

Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe was hopeful that the development would persuade more people to trust Covid vaccines currently being administered.

AU provided 102,000 doses in March and the country only managed to utilise the rest, except the 19,610 doses, within two weeks and five days according to the authorities.

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