The federal government yesterday made good its promise to destroy expired COVID-19 vaccines as AstraZeneca injections totalling 1,066,214 doses were destroyed.
Addressing journalists shortly before setting out to destroy the vaccines at the Idu Dump site in the Federal Capital Territory, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Faisal Shuaib said notwithstanding the destruction of the vaccines, the country was able to save about $40 million by accepting the donated short shelf-live vaccines from donor countries.
He said the government took the action to destroy the expired vaccines not only to safeguard the health of Nigerians, but to also engender trust in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Shuaib said there were about two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that were due for expiration last month, but that the agency was able to utilise over 60 per cent of the supplies before the expiry date.
He said: ‘”The agency has successfully withdrawn about 1,066,214 doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccines have been deposited by the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPA). We have come through on our promise to 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 programme because we have lived up to the expectations of all Nigerians, we had the option of taking the advice of some experts to use these vaccines even beyond the labeled expiry date, but working together with NAFDAC, we took the decision to destroy them at the point they got expired.”
Shuaib said that the move was to further demonstrate the high standards that the agency operate within Nigeria.
“This work that we do is a work that requires trust, it is a sacred trust that has been bestowed on us by the generality of Nigerians. We hold that trust to be true and we guard that trust very jealously.
“This is why today we are destroying these vaccines that have expired. The heroes of today’s activities is actually the frontline health workers.
“A few months ago when these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had short shelve life, but we are living in an environment that supply of COVID-19 vaccine were very scarce. They were not available due to vaccine nationalism, we had developed countries that procured this vaccines and hoarded them in their stores and at the point they were about to expire, they offered them for donations, while we appreciate the donations by these countries, we have to acknowledge the fact that they were almost expired vaccines.
“Because we wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians, we offered to accept these vaccines, worked collaboratively with NAFDAC to ensure that the agency tested and made sure that these vaccines were in good condition and we rolled out under very difficult circumstances, we got our health care workers working night and day, staff of NPHCDA worked round the clock under extreme situations just to make sure that Nigerians have access to vaccines even when these vaccines were not available,” he said.
The NPHCDA boss also gave an update on the vaccination exercise, saying the agency have been able to vaccinate over 10 million Nigerians with the short shelf life vaccines. According to him, if the country were to wait until much later when vaccines would be widely available, may be it would not have gotten any Nigerian vaccinated.
“We still have short shelf life vaccines in the country and they are still potent, they have not reached their end of use date. We have saved Nigeria over $40 million, resources that can be ploughed into other areas of the health sector.
“We will continue to encourage our health workers and continue to work with them until we are able to vaccinate at least 70 percent of our eligible population and achieve herd immunity.
“We guarantee Nigerians that these vaccines are safe, effective and can protect Nigerians against severe form of COVID-19 and also protect against death from Covid-19. The only people that are mostly dying from COVID-19 are people who are unvaccinated, very few people that are vaccinated,” he said.
On her part, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojishola Adeyeye said the agency was discharging its function by ensuring that expired vaccines and any other unwholesome medicine were destroyed and put out of circulation.
She explained that the vaccines destroyed yesterday were very good and potent only that they have reached their expiry date.
“Nigerians deserve the best in terms of the quality of medicines and vaccines. That was the basis of the meeting between NPHCDA and NAFDAC. When NAFDAC approves a vaccine meaning what you have seen on paper, inform of a dosage like a package of the vaccine. When we approve we wait for the vaccine to come,” she said.
Adeyeye explained that the usually life span of the vaccines as they arrive Nigeria was eight to nine months.
According to her because the country does not manufacture the vaccines before they are brought into the country, they would have only about eight months life span remaining.
She said NAFDAC keeps strictly to its core mandate by ensuring that vaccines are properly tested before usage, adding that the agency was one of the few in Africa that tests vaccines before their usage.
Adeyeye described the destruction of the expired vaccine as a means of quality control, saying it marked the end of the journey for a product.
The NAFDAC boss used the opportunity to reassure Nigerians of the hope of revamping the country’s capacity to manufacture vaccines locally in the next one year.
The highlight of the ceremony was the display of the truck load of the expired vaccines which were eventually crushed and poured into a ditch before being buried with sand.