A 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 cremated in Abuja, in the heart of the country. Given by several Western countries, they have reached their expiration date before Nigeria, the most populous state in the African continent, can use them. Barely 3% of the Nigerian population, or 4 million people, are vaccinated against the virus while a new wave of contamination occurs in the country, with the arrival of new variants.
An expiration date that was already close
At the origin of this real mess, vaccines received when the expiry date was close, according to the Nigerian authorities, who explain that they therefore had little time to organize themselves and administer them to the population. “When these vaccines were offered to us, we knew they had a short shelf life, but we lived in an environment where vaccine supplies were very scarce,” explained Dr Faisal Shuaib, director of the national agency in charge of immunization programs, to AFP. The latter denounced the “nationalism” which prevails in the field of vaccines. “Developed countries got these vaccines and then stored them, and then when they were about to expire, offered them to us.”
These doses did indeed come from more developed countries, and were given via the “Covax” vaccine sharing mechanism: 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca were sent from the United Kingdom in August, 800,000 from Canada in September, and another 500,000 from France in October, according to BBC. Nigeria also received four million doses of Moderna and 3.6 million doses of Pfizer from the United States at the same time.
These lots would have arrived on 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 needed for transportation, distribution and delivery to users,” Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s health minister, told the media outlet. British. The country would suffer from organizational, storage and logistical problems in the delivery of vaccines.
Nigeria forced to refuse doses
According to many specialized media, the population on the spot is also difficult to convince and does not believe in this injection which protects serious cases of Covid-19. The media coverage of the destruction of these doses of expired AstraZeneca would then aim to reassure residents of the compliance of the vaccines administered. The government has also said it will “politely” refuse all donations of short-shelf life vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have indeed called for a change in the way vaccine donations are made, in order to avoid waste. “The majority (of those) done so far have been on-time, provided with little notice and with a short retention period. It is therefore extremely difficult for countries to plan vaccination campaigns, ”detailed a statement released in November. A retention period of at least two and a half months upon arrival in the beneficiary country was mentioned. In some countries, syringes are also lacking for administering vaccines.
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 about 450,000 doses have expired in eight African countries. Malawi burned nearly 20,000 expired vaccines earlier this year and South Sudan said it had to destroy tens of thousands of doses.
Losses which undermine the objective of vaccination of the African population, always “desperately low”, according to the person in charge 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 before August 2024. Only six countries have succeeded in vaccinating 40% of their population and ten have succeeded in vaccinating 10% of their inhabitants” , deplores Dr Matshidiso Moeti.