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Malawi to destroy Covid vaccine despite WHO advice

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Charles Mwansambo

Malawi will go ahead to destroy 16,440 Covid-19 vaccine does it received from the African Union (AU) despite Thursday’s decision by Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) for countries not to destroy expired vaccines but continue to use them.

So far, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) records, Malawi has received a total of 512,000 doses, in the following order: 360,000 doses from the Covid Vaccine Access Facility which are set to expire on June 27 this year; 50,000 doses from the Indian Government, all of which have been used. Had it been that the doses from the Asian country’s government were not used up, 22,000 doses would have expired on April 1 this year.

At least 28,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses from the Indian Government are set to expire in July this year. The AU provided 102,000 doses to Malawi, which arrived in the country on March 26 this year and would expire on April 13 this month.

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However, MoH Principal Secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo told Malawi News Friday that Malawi had used most of the AU consignment of vaccines.

“Most of the doses from the AU were used before expiry, except for 16, 440 which we will be incinerating after formal boarding off procedures. We used around 85 percent of the AU donation in two weeks….quite remarkable!” Mwansambo said.

The doses of Oxford- AstraZeneca’s vaccine which Malawi received were manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII). Telecoms group MTN donated the vaccines to the AU, which supplied the same to member states.

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However, there has been confusion about the real expiry date for the AU consignment of the Covid-19 vaccine, with countries such as Malawi and South Sudan indicating that they would dispose of the vaccine after the April 13 2021 expiry date while the AU and WHO have advised African countries to continue using the vaccine after expiry date.

On Thursday, Africa DCD Director John Nkengasong said: “My appeal to [African] member states is: If we are doing our part to mobilise these vaccines, you do your part and use the vaccines.”

Meanwhile, Mwansambo has said Malawi is yet to get communication from Africa CDC and WHO on the same, but indicates that Malawi and South Sudan are exempt from the two bodies

latest directive.

“We have received no formal official communication. The news of extension of shelf life was shared with us after the vaccine had already expired and taken out of our cold chain system. WHO appreciates that this guidance does not apply to Malawi and South Sudan because a decision was already made to destroy the vaccines and the processes have already started.

“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 just be a formality. It needs to be done though to win back the confidence of our citizens because most were hesitating to come to vaccination centres thinking that we are using expired vaccines. Extension of the shelf life should be done at the manufacturing plant when they are labelling the new vials,” Mwansambo said.

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