Dr Osagie Ehanire
Dr Osagie Ehanire

No expired COVID-19 vaccine in circulation, says Nigerian govt

NEWS DIGEST – The Federal Government on Wednesday assured Nigerians that there are no expired COVID-19 vaccines in circulation, saying that expired ones have been withdrawn.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, made this known in a statement in Abuja while reacting to an online publication that nearly one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had expired last month.

He said: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Health has been drawn to reports circulating in the media to the effect that some Covid-19 vaccines had expired in Nigeria.

“Nigeria has, of late, enjoyed the generosity of several, mainly European countries, who have offered us doses of Covid-19 vaccines out of their stockpiles, free of charge, through COVAX or AVAT facility.

“These donations are always acknowledged and thankfully received: however, some of them had residual shelf lives of only a few months that left us very short time, some just weeks, to use them, after deduction of time to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users. If such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottlenecks occasionally arise.

“We appreciate the kind gesture of donors, but also communicated the challenge of short shelf lives, whereupon some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life after the fact, by three months, a practice that, though accepted by experts, is declined by the Federal Ministry of Health, because it is not accommodated in our standards. Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond labeled expiry date. We continue to adhere to our rigorous 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 costs.

“This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves.

“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.”

Mr Ehanire added: “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 N16.4 billion or more than $40m in foreign exchange. The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC

“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.

“The long term measure to prevent such an incident is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration.

“This is why the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity. This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication.”