About one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were estimated to have expired in Nigeria last month without being used.
This has contributed to the loss of doses, despite the difficulty of African countries in getting vaccination for much of their populations.
However, the Federal Government of Nigeria has said it has utilised most of the over 10 million short shelf-life doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the expiration in good time.
It also disclosed that the exercise saved government N16.4 billion or more than $40 million in foreign exchange, adding that the vaccines that expired had been withdrawn and will be destroyed accordingly by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
A statement signed by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, reads: 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 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 labelled 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 cost. This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many low- and medium-income countries find themselves.
“Donors also recognise 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.
“Nigeria has utilised most of the over 10 million short shelf-life doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far supplied to us, in good time, and saved N16.4 billion or more than $40 million in foreign exchange. The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC.