Nigeria has scrapped hundreds of thousands of expired coronavirus vaccine doses, destroying more than a million shots en masse after officials voiced complaints about the short shelf life of jabs donated by Western states.
A massive quantity of out-of-date AstraZeneca vaccines was trashed at a dump site in the city of Abuja on Wednesday, with a bulldozer seen crushing the medicines in footage obtained by Reuters. Officials later publicized the move in an apparent bid to quell fears that the expired immunizations were being administered to residents.
“We have successfully withdrawn 1,066,214 doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccines. We have kept our promise to be transparent to Nigerians. The destruction today is an opportunity for Nigerians to have faith in our vaccination program,” said Faisal Shuaib, executive director at Nigeria’s the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
Shuaib also told reporters that, despite knowing the doses would expire in just two weeks, Nigeria was effectively forced to take the donations, as Covid-19 vaccines remain scarce across much of Africa. The shots were delivered from multiple European countries participating in the COVAX vaccine-sharing program.
Following a presidential committee meeting, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said his country would no longer accept immunizations with such short shelf lives.
Concerns over the expiration dates of the donated AstraZeneca shots were raised earlier this month, after Nigerian authorities noted the fast-approaching deadline to use up the vaccines. An earlier report in Reuters, however, suggested that some one million doses had already passed their date by November.
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As of December 19, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 13 million vaccine doses have been administered in Nigeria, which boasts a population in excess of 200 million, making it the continent’s most populous nation. The country has recorded more than 227,000 coronavirus infections and nearly 3,000 deaths since the pandemic kicked off in late 2019.