The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) on Thursday urged African countries not to destroy Covid-19 vaccines that have expired. This advice came following confusion in Malawi and South Sudan they said they would discard more than 70,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab that were out of date. The WHO's Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti said."Our advice would be that countries should ensure that they store the vaccines safely as we continue to study and try to get definitive advice on whether the vaccines can be used for longer." “My understanding is that the expiry date could be several months longer than had initially been envisaged. But we will look for the definitive information,” she added.
Malawi has said it plans to destroy more than 16,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India because the vaccines were not administered before the April 13 expiry date on the packaging. The doses were supplied via the AU thanks to a donation from telecoms group MTN.
"South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiry issue, a government official told Reuters last week.
The Africa CDC says it has spoken to the manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII), and has been reassured that the vaccines are still safe.
The head of Africa CDC John Nkegasong, said "The vaccine landscape is extremely challenging and the advice we got from SII is that the vaccines can still be used even after nine months."
Many vaccines can be used up to 36 months after manufacture, but because Covid-19 jabs are so new, there is not enough data to prove their effectiveness over longer periods.
The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa has been sluggish, somewhat because of supply issues and doubts about the shots.
Out of 55 African countries, 41 have benefitted from the delivery of vaccines via the global-sharing scheme Covax. Seven are yet to take delivery of their first batch.