From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Federal Government, yesterday, destroyed 1,066,214 doses of expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
The destruction exercise was conducted by officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPB), in Abuja.
Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in his remarks, explained that the expired vaccines were part of the 2,594,100 vaccine doses received on October 11 and 29, 2021, of which only 1,527,886 were administered.
He described the situation as unfortunate, noting that the vaccines came with a short life span with some as short as two weeks to expiration.
He said: “The quantities of short life vaccines that we brought initially which were going to expire by the end of November was over two million, but we were able to utilise over 60 percent of the vaccines.
“Over 10 million Nigerians have been vaccinated, and it’s evidence that the vaccine doesn’t cause death nor make someone magnetic or robotic. The media should continue to promote information around vaccination and good vaccination practice.”
NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, described the destruction of the expired vaccines as a means of quality control, thus, marking the end of the journey for a product.
She explained: “These vaccines did not expire before we took the decision to withdraw them.
“We had the option, if we were to take the advice of some experts, to use these vaccines even beyond the labeled expiry date, but we took the decision to destroy the vaccines at the point they expired.
“This is an opportunity for Nigerians to have further faith in our vaccination programme because we have lived up to the expectations of all Nigerians.
“They deserve the best in terms of the quality of medicines and vaccines, and that was the basis of the meeting between NPHCDA and NAFDAC.
We have been working night and day together.
“Vaccines coming with short expiration dates are a challenge to us as a country, but because of the love of country, we decided to work late to meet the challenge.”
She said that NAFDAC has kept strictly to its core mandate by ensuring that vaccines are properly tested before usage, adding that the agency was one of the few agencies in Africa that test vaccines before their usage.
She lamented the short shelf life of vaccines being shifted to Africa and other developing countries, suggesting that production of vaccines in the country remains the best option.
“Because we wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians, we offered to accept these vaccines with short life, worked collaboratively with NAFDAC to ensure that the agency tested and made sure that the vaccines were in good condition before we rolled them out under very difficult circumstances.
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“Our health care workers worked round the clock, under extreme situations, to ensure that Nigerians have access to vaccines even when the vaccines were not available.
“We were able to vaccinate over 10 million Nigerians with the short shelf life vaccines. If we were to wait until much later when vaccines would be widely available, maybe, we would not have got any Nigerian vaccinated.
“We saved Nigeria over $40 million resources that can be ploughed into other areas of the health sector. We would continue to encourage our health workers and continue to work with them until we are able to vaccinate, at least, 70 percent of our eligible population and achieve immunity.”
She reassured Nigerians that the vaccines are safe, effective and protect against severe forms of COVID-19 and also protect against death from COVID-19. The only people that are mostly dying from COVID-19 are people who are unvaccinated, and very few people who are vaccinated.