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Malawi defies WHO on vaccine

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Maziko Matemba

Malawi will proceed to destroy about 19,610 expired doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine it received as support from the African Union (AU), thereby defying the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s advice not to.

Last week, President Lazarus Chakwera justified Malawi’s position on destruction of expired Covid vaccines in an interview with CNN of the United States, saying using expired vaccines would be analogous to turning the country into a dumping ground.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced that the burning will take place at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on Wednesday, May 19.

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MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango Thursday justified the country’s decision to destroy the expired vaccine doses because communication from WHO came late after the ministry had already withdrawn the doses from the cold chain system.

“For us, the vaccine doses were effectively already destroyed the moment we removed them from the cold chain system after the expiry date. The incineration will be done to win the confidence of our citizens though,” he said

MoH records indicate that the country has 120,000 good doses remaining. They are scheduled to expire in June.

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AU supported the country with 102,000 doses in March this year and a part of them expired in April this year.

The ministry would continue to undertake the exercise despite WHO’s plea for countries not to destroy the vaccine and for further guidance.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control said the doses were safe to be used 36 months after the manufacture date.

Health rights advocate Maziko Matemba said the expired vaccine should be a lesson for the country to have proper planning.

Malawi received a total of 512,000 doses, of which 360,000 are from the Covid Vaccine Access Facility, 102,000 doses from the AU while 50,000 doses are from the Indian government.

The Presidential Taskforce on Covid said, as of Thursday, 330,348 doses of Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered.

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