Malawi BURNS 20,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines despite pleas not to

Malawi BURNS 20,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines after receiving 100,000 donated doses – despite medics insisting they ARE safe to use

  • Malawi’s health minister said burning the expired jabs would fight hesitancy 
  • The country received 102,000 doses from the African Union on April 13
  • The shots expired 18 days later, by which time about 80 percent had been given
  • The remainder were burned on Wednesday in a bid to reassure Malawians 
  • The AU and the World Health Organization said the jabs are safe until mid-June 

Malawi has burned almost 20,000 doses of expired coronavirus vaccines, despite assurances from health organisations that they were still safe to use.

The 19,610 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine expired 18 days after arriving in Malawi, but both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union (AU) said the jabs were safe until mid-July. 

The batch of 102,000 arrived in the country on March 26, under an AU and WHO initiative. They expired on April 13, leaving 18 days for them to be used. Malawi managed to deploy about 80 percent of them by that time.  

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), part of the AU, told a news conference late last month that the shots could be used until July 13, based on a further analysis conducted by manufacturers the Serum Institute of India.

He and the WHO also urged African countries not to waste vaccines donated to them.

However, the Malawian government said it would not give expired vaccines to its citizens. 

Malawi has burned almost 20,000 doses of expired coronavirus vaccines, despite assurances from health organisations that they were still safe to use

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda presided over the incineration Wednesday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital. 

‘We are destroying (them) because, as government policy… no expired vaccine has ever been used,’ she said, before throwing the shots, which were wrapped in red plastic bags, into an incinerator, causing a cloud of dark smoke to billow from its chimney. 

Chiponda said the burning of the vaccines will prevent those with a negative perception of inoculations from using the excuse of expired vaccines from getting the shots.

‘We are destroying publicly in order to stay accountable to Malawians. The vaccines that expired are not being used during the vaccination campaign,’ she said.

‘On behalf of the government, I assure all Malawians that no one will be given an expired COVID vaccine.’ 

The health minister thanked WHO, the African Union and India for donating the vaccines.

‘This has made it possible for Malawi to embark on the COVID vaccination campaign currently underway,’ she said, without mentioning the WHO’s pleas not to burn the vaccines.

Malawi got its first consignment of 360,000 AstraZeneca doses in early March from the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative. The country received another batch of 50,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Indian government. With the AU donation, Malawi had a total of 512,000 AstraZeneca doses. Pictured: Vaccines arrive to be destroyed in Lilongwe, Malawi

Chiponda blamed a hesitant uptake of the jabs on ‘propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine.’ 

Austria this week became the third European country to drop AstraZeneca, after Norway and Denmark ditched the vaccine over rare cases of severe blood clots in people receiving the jab. 

‘We don’t want to lose any vaccine because we have a lot of people to vaccinate but… we have to remove all expired drugs from the system,’ Chiponda said. 

The calls not to destroy the vaccines came too late for Malawi, a small southern African country of about 20 million people, ministry of health spokesman Joshua Malango told The Associated Press news agency.

‘We had stopped observation of proper storage mechanisms and the vaccines would have still been damaged in one way or the other,’ he said. 

The destruction of the vaccines was witnessed by several top officials ‘in order to enhance transparency,’ health secretary Charles Mwansambo said.

Malawi will still have adequate stocks of COVID-19 vaccines in both public and private health facilities, he said. The government has not said where it will get more vaccines.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (left) presided over the incineration Wednesday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital

India’s drug regulator in March allowed the Serum Institute of India-produced AstraZeneca vaccine to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, as opposed to the earlier six months.

South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiration issue.

Malawi’s health ministry said the country had administered 335,232 vaccine doses as of May 18, and recorded 34,231 COVID infections and 1,153 deaths.

African countries have struggled to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines to roll out mass immunisation. 

Many rely on handouts from global vaccine scheme COVAX, which is co-led by the WHO and partners including the Gavi vaccines alliance. 

Chiponda (right) said the burning of the vaccines will prevent those with a negative perception of inoculations from using the excuse of expired vaccines from getting the shots. Pictured: A pharmaceutical expert opens a pack of expired AstraZeneca vaccines before they are destroyed

But now supplies of the vaccine have become more scarce because India, the main supplier of vaccines to COVAX, has stopped exports until it has adequately vaccinated large numbers of its population of 1.4 billion people. 

Malawi got its first consignment of 360,000 AstraZeneca doses in early March from the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative.

The country received another batch of 50,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Indian government. With the AU donation, Malawi had a total of 512,000 AstraZeneca doses.   

The Serum Institute of India says it hopes to start delivering coronavirus vaccines to COVAX and to other countries by the end of the year. 

The delay will significantly set back global efforts to immunise people against COVID-19. India’s Serum Institute is the world’s biggest vaccine-maker. 

The company said in March that it was postponing all exports of coronavirus vaccines to deal with the explosive surge of cases on the subcontinent. 

At the time, the WHO said it expected COVID-19 vaccine deliveries from India to resume by June and the interruption would affect about 90 million doses. 

Malawi’s health ministry said the country had administered 335,232 vaccine doses as of May 18, and recorded 34,231 COVID infections and 1,153 deaths. Pictured: Chiponda lifts out a pack of expired vaccines prior to their incineration 

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