The Federal Government of Nigeria has destroyed over a million doses of expired COVID-19 Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines.
The expiration was attributed to the consequence of delays in the shipment of vaccine doses, especially of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which meant countries couldn’t roll them out before expiration.
By this action, Nigeria joined other African countries, like Malawi, South Sudan, Liberia, Mauritania, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Comoros, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to destroy its expired COVID-19 vaccines.
The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, while speaking at Gosa Dumpsite, in the FCT Abuja, said that Nigeria had successfully withdrawn about 1,066,214, doses of expired Astra Zeneca vaccines from across the country.
“As you can see these vaccines have now been deposited by the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency. We have come through in our promise to all Nigerians to be transparent in our delivery of vaccines. These vaccines did not expire before we took the decision to withdraw them today is an opportunity for Nigerians to have further faith in our vaccination program. Because we have lived up to the expectation of all Nigerians. We had the option if we were to take the advice of some experts to try and use these vaccines even beyond the label expiry date, but working together with our sister agency, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), who took that decision to destroy these vaccines at the point that they got expired,” Dr Shuaib said.
He noted that the destruction was to further demonstrate the high standards that the agency operate within Nigeria.
“The work that we do is the work that requires trust. It is a sacred trust that has been bestowed on us by the generalizing generality of Nigerians and hold that trust to be true. And we pride that trust very jealously. This is why today, we are destroying these vaccines that have expired
“A few months ago, when these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had a short shelf life. But we were living in an environment where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines were very scarce. They were not available due to vaccine nationalism. We had developed countries that procured these vaccines and hoarded them in their stores. At the point that they were about to expire. We were offered for donation. Well, we appreciate the donation from these countries.“
Dr. Shuaib also acknowledge the fact that the vaccines were almost expired but, because the government wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians the donations were accepted.
“We offer to accept these vaccines worked collaboratively with NPHCDA to ensure that none of vaccines were bad, they were also tested and ensure that the vaccines were in good condition. We rolled out under very difficult circumstances. We actually got our frontline health workers, working night and day. Staff of the NPHCDA did not know Saturdays or Sundays. We were working around the clock on very extreme situations just to make sure that Nigerians have access to vaccines, even when these vaccines were not widely available. We’re able to vaccinate over 10 million Nigerians with these short shelf life vaccines.”
He stated that if the country had waited till when vaccines would be widely available, maybe it would not have gotten any Nigerian vaccinated by now.
“So my heart and my pride goes out to those frontline health workers that continue to work around the clock.
“We still have short shelf life vaccines in the country. They are still potent. They have not reached the end of use dates and the health workers are still going around every community and settlement to ensure Nigerians are vaccinated,“ he explained.
Meanwhile, the Director-General, NAFDAC, Dr Mojisola Adeyeye, noted that Nigeria was the only country with a unique vaccination programme.
“Nigeria has one of the best vaccination immunization program in the world. UNICEF mentioned this last year. But we started this journey months before the vaccines came. In terms of what we are witnessing today. It is a continuous unfolding of the fact that the best is for all Nigerians because Nigerians deserve the best in terms of quality of medicines, vaccines.”
She said that when the vaccines got into Nigeria, they were received by the NPHCDA because it is the primary job to immunize the country.
“However, we have been working night and day together. And what he said about the vaccines coming with short expiration dates pose a challenge to us as a country. But because of the love of the country, we decided to walk with that tight timespan or challenge,” she said.
According to the NAFDAC Director-General, “We approved the dozier first when the vaccines come. Nobody uses the vaccines unless NAFDAC said so is that NAFDAC is working day and nights to ensure that the vaccines is of quality.”
She added that this was part of quality control that the agency had been doing and in the regulatory language its called “market control”
“The vaccines come to NPHCDA, which is tested in the lab immediately people come from Lagos to sample, we test it, it’s not just testing also, we put it on dip database a track and trace database that will show us where the vaccines are in the country,” she explained.
She noted that NAFDAC was the only regulatory agency in Africa that was doing that for the COVID-19 vaccine.