Malawi publicly destroy 17,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines

Malawi on Wednesday destroyed nearly 17,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that had expired in mid-April, with the health minister blaming “propaganda” for many Malawians’ reluctance to receive the jab.

“The batch which had expired (has) been withdrawn from our system and has been destroyed,” Health Minister Kumbize Kandodo said at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe.

According to the BBC, it is the first African country to publicly burn thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The World Health Organisation initially pleaded with countries not to destroy any doses of the vaccine — expired or not — but has since updated its advice.

The southern African country has so far received three batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine — 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine sharing facility, 50,000 from India and 102,000 from the African Union.

But hardly any one is interested, according to locals.

When news spread that we had out-of-date vaccines, we noticed that people were not coming to our clinics to get immunised, Malawi’s Principal Health Secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo told the BBC.
If we don’t burn them, people will think that we are using expired vaccines in our facilities.

Kandodo said the African Union batch had “two weeks of shelf life, and unfortunately, in those two weeks, we were not able to absorb everything, mostly due to the propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Health officials hope the public display will force a change of mind in the country and stop locals from using the excuse of “expired vaccines”.

We are destroying publicly in order to stay accountable to Malawians, Kandodo said.
The vaccines that expired are not being used during the vaccination campaign. On behalf of the government, I assure all Malawians that no one will be given an expired COVID vaccine.

According to AP, 212,615 doses have been given in Malawi. The country has 34,216 confirmed cases, including 1,153 deaths, citing the Africa CDC.

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.

Kandodo said Wednesday: 

We tried to assure Malawians and give them the faith” but wound up with 16,910 unusable doses of AstraZeneca, incinerated in a brief ceremony at the hospital.

Since Malawi launched its vaccination drive in March, it has inoculated 300,000 people of its target to reach 11 million, or 60 per cent of the population, by the end of the year.

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, Kandodo said.

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