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FG Confirms Some COVID-19 Vaccines Expired, Says They Were Withdrawn Before Deployment

The Federal Government has confirmed that within the last month, some COVID-19 vaccines expired in the country.

However, according to the government, the vaccines are said to have been withdrawn and will be destroyed by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

In a press statement put out to properly brief the public and set the records straight, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, noted that donation of surplus Covid-19 vaccines with short/expiring shelf lives has been of great concern internationally.

Ehanire, however, assured that the government has been handling the situation effectively, upholding the greatest standards for the safety of all Nigerians.

“Nigeria has utilized most of the over 10m short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far supplied to us, in good time, and saved N16.4B or more than $40m in foreign exchange.

“The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC,” the health ministry’s statement read n part.

This assurance comes a few hours after reports suggested that up to one million COVID-19 vaccines expired in Nigeria last month without being used.

Reacting further to the emerging reports, the Ministry of Health noted that 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.

Adding that while these donations are always acknowledged and thankfully received: however, some of them had residual shelf lives of only a few months that left the government very short time, some just weeks, to use them, after deduction of time to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users.

The ministry further disclosed that if such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottlenecks occasionally arise.

It additionally noted that the challenge of short shelf lives, is always communicated to the donors whereupon some manufacturers offer to extend the vaccine shelf life after the fact, by 3 months, a practice that, though is accepted by experts, is declined by the Federal Ministry of Health.

According to the health ministry, this practice is frowned upon in Nigeria because it is not accommodated in the nation’s standards.

“Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond labelled expiry date. We continue to adhere to our rigorous standards,” the ministry’s communique explained.

The statement however emphasized that developing countries like Nigeria accept the vaccines because they close the critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save the nation from scarce foreign exchange procurement cost.

While stressing that this dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves, the ministry said “donors also recognize 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,” the communique added.

According to the health ministry, Nigeria has utilized most of the over 10m short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far supplied, in good time, and saved N16.4B or more than $40m in foreign exchange.

The Ministry of Health explained that it 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.

In the ministry’s view, 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 according to Dr Ehanire, is why the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity.

According to the health minister, this is a goal the ministry is pursuing with dedication.

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