By Gloria Akudoro, Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Health has disclosed that Nigeria has utilized over 10 million short-shelf-life doses of COVID-19 vaccines supplied by foreign donors before expiration and saved about N16.4 billion (over $40 million) in foreign exchange.
This is contained in a statement signed by the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire on Wednesday clarifying media report that some COVID-19 vaccines had expired in Nigeria.
Ehanire however stated that expired vaccines had long been withdrawn and will be destroyed accordingly by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control – NAFDAC.
It also stated that the ministry shares its experience with partners regularly and politely declines all vaccines donation with short-shelf-life and cannot arrive within time frame.
According to the statement, “Nigeria has of late enjoined 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 few weeks) to use them after deduction to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users. If such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottleneck 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 3 months, a practice that, though, accepted by experts, is declined by the Federal Ministry of Health because it is not accommodated in our standard.
“Nigeria does not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond lebelled expiry date. We continue to adhere to our rigorous standards.”
The Minister further stated that international debate has raged over the donation of COVID-19 vaccination with short-shelf-lives to developing countries. He added that they are accepted by Nigeria because they fill a vital vaccination supply gap and save the nation huge money on foreign exchange procurement.
“This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria but a situation in which many low and medium income countries find themselves.”
Ehanire also stressed that donors acknowledged the need to give away unused vaccines before they expire in their own stock but most also begin early process and establish a well-oiled mechanism for fast shipment and distribution through COVAX and AVAT facilities to avoid expiration.
He affirmed that vaccines do not need to expire in the stock of donors or recipients if greater coordination is achieved.
The Minister who assured Nigerians of its Ministry’s commitment towards producing the vaccine locally stated “the long time measures to prevent such incident is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccine, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration.
“This is the reason the ministry is collaborating with stakeholders to fast track establishment of Indegenous vaccine manufacturing capacity. This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication.”