African countries have struggled to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines. So why are thousands of doses going to waste?
May 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 22.8%. 2 min read.
While many African nations are grappling with barely sufficient supplies of Covid-19 vaccines, others are destroying thousands of unused shots.
The shots to be disposed of are expired doses that were donated by telecommunications company MTN, through the African Union's African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), a World Health Organization (WHO) official told CNN.
A spokesperson for WHO Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Kate Ribet, told CNN that more than 1 million AstraZeneca doses acquired through COVAX have been returned by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following concerns that the shots may not be administered before their expiry date.
"With regards the DRC, the country recognized that it would not be able to deploy all of its 1. 7 million COVAX-funded doses before their expiry in June, and made 1. 3 million doses available to countries that have not yet received doses or have shown efficiency in vaccination," said Ribet.
In Malawi, at least 19,000 unadministered doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be publicly incinerated on May 19, the country's health ministry said in a statement to CNN.
Malawi's Secretary for Health, Charles Mwansambo, told CNN that the country was unable to deploy all the affected vaccines before they expired.
Mwansambo is optimistic that, given Malawi's current rates of vaccination uptake, the country will be able to use the remaining doses before their expiry dates.
Malawi's vaccination program suffered a setback in April after news of expiring vaccines circulated nationwide -- the government also expanded eligibility for the shots days before their expiry -- and people became concerned about being given out-of-date doses.
On the destruction of vaccines in Malawi and South Sudan, a spokesperson for Gavi, the vaccine alliance that runs COVAX with WHO, told CNN: "We understand there are challenging circumstances with vaccine rollouts and together with WHO and UNICEF, we continue to work closely with countries to support immediate and rapid rollout of COVAX doses received. "
"We are expecting 7. 6 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility, which translates to 3. 8 million people, since the vaccine requires two doses," said Mwansambo, the country's Secretary of Health.
Yet Malawi and many other countries that rely on COVAX for vaccines already face a more fundamental problem: They simply don't have enough doses. The initiative had aimed to supply 170 million shots to low-income countries by this week.