Nigeria’s Federal Ministry Of Health has clarified reports circulating about one million expired covid-19 vaccines in the country, stating that Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with validity extended beyond expiry date.
This follows a Reuters report stating that over one million Covid-19 vaccines expired in Nigeria last month without being used.
The ministry which released a press statement Wednesday, said Nigeria has recently benefited from the generosity of a number of countries, especially in Europe, who have contributed free doses of Covid-19 vaccine from their stockpiles through the COVAX or AVAT facilities.
“These donations are usually much appreciated; however, some of them had just a few months’ remaining shelf life, leaving us with only a few weeks to use them after deducting time for shipping, clearing, distribution, and delivery to consumers,” the statement said.
Logistic bottlenecks can develop when many vaccines arrive at the same time or in significant quantities.
The statement reads, “We appreciate the generous donations, but we also communicated the problem of short shelf lives, and some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life by three months after the fact, a practice that, while accepted by experts, is rejected by the Federal Ministry of Health because it does not meet our standards.
“Nigeria does not distribute vaccinations having a validity period that extends beyond the expiration date on the label. We will continue to uphold our high standards.
“Donation of surplus Covid-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to developing countries has been a matter of international discussion.
“Developing countries like Nigeria accept them because they close our critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save us scarce foreign exchange procurement cost. This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many low- and medium-income countries find themselves.”
The statement added, “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.”
According to the ministry, Nigeria has utilized most of the over 10 million short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines supplied to it so far, 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, the ministry said.
“The Ministry of Health 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,” it revealed.
According to the ministry, the long term measure to prevent such incidents is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration.
This it revealed, is why it is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity.
“This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication,” It said.