COVID-19. Why have a million doses of vaccine been burned in Nigeria?

One million. This is the number of vaccine doses that had to be destroyed in Nigeria on Wednesday. These sera manufactured by the AstraZeneca laboratory against Covid-19 were incinerated in Abuja, in the heart of the country. Given by various Western countries, they have reached their expiration date before Nigeria, the most populous state on the African continent, can use them. Just 3% of the Nigerian population, or 4 million people, are vaccinated against the virus as a new wave of contamination is taking place in the country, with the arrival of new variants.

An expiration date that was already near

At the origin of this real mess, the vaccines received when the expiration date was approaching, according to the Nigerian authorities, explain that therefore they had little time to organize and administer them to the population. “When we were offered these vaccines, we knew they had a short shelf life, but we lived in an environment where vaccine supplies were very scarce,” Dr. Faisal Shuaib, director of the national agency in charge of the programs, told AFP. immunization. .

The latter denounced the “nationalism” that prevails in the field of vaccines. “Developed countries got these vaccines and then stored them, and then when they were about to expire, they offered them to us. “

In fact, these doses came from more developed countries and were administered through the ‘Covax’ vaccine exchange mechanism: 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca were shipped from the UK in August, 800,000 from Canada in September and another 500,000 from France in October. . according to the BBC. Nigeria also received four million doses of Moderna and 3.6 million doses of US Pfizer at the same time.

These batches would have arrived at the site between 4 and 6 weeks before their expiration date, according to the authorities. “This left us very little time, just a few weeks, to use them after deducting the time required for transport, distribution and delivery to users,” Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s health minister, told the British outlet. The country would suffer organizational, storage and logistical problems in the delivery of vaccines.

Nigeria forced to refuse doses

According to several specialized media, the local population is also difficult to convince and does not believe in this injection that protects severe cases of Covid-19. The media coverage of the destruction of these expired AstraZeneca doses would then aim to reassure the inhabitants of compliance with the vaccines administered. The government has also said it will “politely” reject all short-lived vaccine donations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Africa) have called for a change in the way vaccine donations are made to avoid waste. “Most (of the) events so far have been done on time, provided on short notice and with a short retention period. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for countries to plan vaccination campaigns ”, details a statement issued in November. A retention period of at least two and a half months was mentioned upon arrival in the beneficiary country. In some countries, syringes for administering vaccines are also lacking.

Other African countries facing the same problem

But the problem of expired vaccines would be global, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. The international body estimated in July that some 450,000 doses have expired in eight African countries. Malawi burned about 20,000 expired vaccines earlier this year and South Sudan said it had to destroy tens of thousands of doses.

Losses that violate the objective of vaccination of the African population, always “desperately low”, according to the head of the WHO. Nigeria’s goal is to vaccinate more than half of its population by the end of 2022, a challenge that will be difficult to meet.

“If things continue like this, Africa may not reach the target of 70% of the population vaccinated in August 2024. Only six countries have managed to vaccinate 40% of their population and ten have managed to vaccinate 10% of their inhabitants “, the Mint. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

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