Amid the recent surge in a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the rise of the Omicron variant, it has emerged that an estimated one million vaccines expired in Nigeria in November 2021 without being used.
The development was brought to light by Reuters, which quoted two sources in the Nigerian government circles familiar with the matter.
The large haul of expired vaccines represents one of the biggest single losses of doses in the world. Specifically, the development was attributed to a recent surge in supply of the vaccines; many of which have a very short shelf life. Consequently, Nigeria, just like many other African countries, is encountering difficulties storing the doses.
A source told Reuters that the expired doses were made by AstraZeneca and delivered from Europe to Nigeria through COVAX; a vaccine-sharing facility led by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Furthermore, another source told the medium that some of the doses arrived within four-to-six weeks of expiry; adding that this meant that they could not be used in time, despite efforts by health authorities. Meanwhile, the sources revealed that an official number of the expired COVID-19 vaccines is yet to be confirmed; with a count of the expired doses still underway.
“Nigeria is doing everything it can. But it’s struggling with short shelf life vaccines,” one of the sources told Reuters. “Now (supply is) unpredictable and they’re sending too much.”
Interestingly, the development was confirmed by a spokesperson for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. The source told Reuters that the number of vaccines received and used is still being tallied; adding that the agency would share its findings in the coming days. It also quoted a WHO source who confirmed that vaccine expiry and wastage was a normal phenomenon in any mass vaccination programme. The source equally revealed that vaccines delivered with short shelf life are problematic; while also disclosing that 800,000 additional doses that had been at risk of expiry in October were all used in time.
Data from the WHO reveals that less than 4% of adults in Nigeria have been fully vaccinated; further worsening the huge loss of COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, the loss of nearly one million doses in Nigeria is believed to be one of the largest of its kind over such a short time period; with the figure exceeding the total number of vaccines that some other countries in the region have received.
Nevertheless, other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland have also contended with the same scenario and maximizing doses, Reuters noted. It cited that in January, officials in Britain forecast wastage of about 10% of vaccines; while in April, France’s health minister told local media that 25% of AstraZeneca, 20% of Moderna (MRNA.O) and 7% of Pfizer (PFE.N) vaccines were being wasted at the time.