Africa to destroy around 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

The Democratic Republic of Congo has reportedly returned 1.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Covax facility and South Sudan has also alerted the global initiative for equitable COVID-19 vaccine access about returning 72,000 vaccine doses. South Sudan is also planning on destroying 59,000 doses of the vaccine, reports suggest.

With 200 million spare vaccine doses and a procurement of 1.5 billion doses for future use, wealthier countries have reported successful vaccination campaigns. Supposedly, these countries plan on giving away some vaccine doses to poorer countries.

Around 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have apparently been slated for delivery to developing nations this year. France has also pledged an initial 100,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Covax facility.

However, due to inefficient global vaccine distribution and the fairly short shelf-life of the COVID-19 vaccines, doses have been arriving too late in some countries to still be usable.

In May 2021, Malawi reportedly destroyed nearly 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots as they were about to expire. The nation had received 102,000 vaccine doses from the AU on 26th March and had used around 80% of them. These vials displayed the expiry date of 13th April, which officials claimed was not enough time to use up the stock.

Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, the health minister of Malawi, said that they destroyed the COVID-19 vaccines as government policy mandates that no expired health commodities should be used.

Around 13 countries received these vaccines as part of a partnership between the AU and the telecom company MTN Group. Other than South Sudan and Malawi, Sierra Leone and Ghana had also not used all vaccine doses due to their expiry dates.

Basic healthcare is evidently inaccessible for many people in the African continent, which accounts for less than 2% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered globally until now. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study found that one in 10 medical products in developing nations are either sub-standard or entirely falsified.

Reportedly, the study also found that drugs that are past their expiry dates have frequently been dumped in low- or middle-income countries. Moreover, many past donations have been so massive that they could not be used completely before they expired.

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