- Roda Udihombo
- BBC – Lilongwe
Health authorities burned in Malawi 19,610 An expired dose of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine, pledging that it will assure citizens that the vaccines they receive are safe.
Malawi is the first African country to take such action publicly.
The World Health Organization had recommended that countries of the world not to do without expired doses of vaccines, but it changed its recommendations after that.
Demand for anti-epidemic vaccines is still weak in Malawi, but health workers in the country hope that the elimination of expired vaccines will increase people’s confidence in the immunization process.
The number of cases of Coronavirus infection in this country of about 18 million people recorded 34,232 cases, with the number of deaths rising to 1,153 deaths.
Malawi received 102,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the European Union on 26 March, about 80 percent of which were used.
However, the expiration date of the vaccine on the doses was April 13, so the vials were removed from the refrigerating containers.
The Secretary-General of the Ministry of Health in Malawi, Charles Mwansambo, told the BBC that the ministry was unfortunately forced to smash the bottles, but he explained that the benefits of this measure were more than its harm.
He added: “When news spread that we have expired vaccines, we noticed a decrease in people’s turnout to clinics to receive immunization.”
He continued: “If we did not burn them, people could have been convinced that we are using expired vaccines in our health facilities. And if they did not come to receive immunization, Covid 19 will hit them hard.”
Malawi Health Minister Kompez Shibunda was photographed closing the crematorium on Wednesday.
On the streets of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, there are those who have concerns about the safety of a vaccine.
“I want to be immunized, but what guarantees if I go to the hospital that I will not get an expired vaccine?” Jack Shetitt, a store salesman, told the BBC.
And a salesman in another store called Mvatsu Shibinda agreed with him: “I heard many stories of people who had strokes and others who died after receiving vaccinations. Is this all a lie? And if this is the truth, then why do they use the same vaccines with us?”
This comes without showing any solid scientific evidence proving the relationship between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare strokes that a few who received the vaccine had, according to health experts. Experts confirm that the risk of Covid 19 is much greater than any potential risks of taking the vaccine, advising people to receive the vaccine if they have the opportunity to do so.
And Malawi is not the only country in Africa that has expired vaccines. But the World Health Organization has advised them not to execute it until it is sure whether or not they can still be used.
But the organization says at the present time that the vaccines received by the manufacturers with a specific expiration date must be destroyed after this date.
“While vaccine culling is a regret in any immunization program, the World Health Organization recommends excluding expired doses from the distribution chain and disposing of them safely,” the international organization said.
The validity of the vaccines used at the present time reaches 36 months, but the real challenge with regard to the Covid 19 vaccines is that they have been used for less than a year and there is no objective data on their effectiveness after storage for a long period.