Malawi has destroyed nearly 20,000 doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccines, defying World Health Organization and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice.
Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Malawi’s Health Minister, presided over the incineration on Wednesday at Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Central Hospital.
“We’re destroying (these vaccines) because using expired health commodities is against government policy,” she explained. “In Malawi’s expanded immunization program, no expired vaccine has ever been used.”
She claims that by burning the vaccines, those who oppose immunizations will no longer be able to use expired vaccines as an excuse to avoid getting the shots.
“We are destroying in public so that we can be held accountable to Malawians.”
At thre same time, she re-assured the nation that expired vaccines were not being used in the country.
“Expired vaccines are not being used during the vaccination campaign, ” She said. “I assure all Malawians, on behalf of the government, that no expired COVID vaccine will be administered.”
The vaccines that were incinerated were the last of 102,000 doses that arrived in Malawi on March 26 and had only 18 days before expiring on April 13.
She stated that all other doses of the shipment, which was donated by the African Union, had been administered successfully.
The health minister expressed gratitude to WHO, the African Union, and India for donating the vaccines.
“This has enabled Malawi to embark on the current COVID vaccination campaign,” she said, without mentioning the WHO’s pleas not to burn the vaccines.
For Malawi, a small southern African country with a population of around 20 million citizens, the calls to not destroy the vaccines came too late, according to Joshua Malango, a spokesman for the ministry of health.
“We had avoided monitoring proper storage systems, and the vaccines may have been harmed in any way,” he said.
Several top officials were present when the vaccines were destroyed, according to health secretary Charles Mwansambo, “in order to improve accountability.”
Malawi will continue to have sufficient COVID-19 vaccine stocks in both public and private health facilities, he predicted. The government has not indicated where more vaccines will be procured.