Africa Urges Western Nations to Send Covid Vaccines on Time as Doses Continue to Go Waste

ADDIS ABABA – A large quantity of Covid-19 vaccines will continue to go waste if Western countries keep on sending doses with shorter shelf lives, warned African CDC and its partners on Monday.

Several African countries are destroying vaccines after they’ve exceeded their expiry dates.

Others are being returned by countries that are unable to use them before they expire with Namibia becoming the latest nation that announced more than 268,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are at risk of being destroyed in weeks.

On Monday, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and COVAX issued a statement to draw the attention of the donors of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, particularly those supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, on the situation.

To date, over 90 million donated doses have been delivered to the continent via COVAX and AVAT and millions more via bilateral arrangements.

“However, the majority of the donations to-date have been ad hoc, provided with little notice and short shelf lives,” the trio said.

“This has made it extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity.”

This trend must change in order o achieve higher coverage rates across the continent, and for donations to be a sustainable source of supply that can complement supply from AVAT and COVAX purchase agreements, they warned.

“Countries need predictable and reliable supply,” the agencies said, adding having to plan at short notice and ensure uptake of doses with short shelf lives exponentially magnifies the logistical burden on health systems that are already stretched.

Ad hoc supply of vaccine also utilizes capacity – human resources, infrastructure, cold chain – that could be directed towards long-term successful and sustainable rollout.

“It also dramatically increases the risks of expiry once doses with already short shelf-lives arrive in country, which may have long-term repercussions for vaccine confidence,” the agencies said.

Donations to COVAX, AVAT and African countries must be made in a way that allows countries to effectively mobilize domestic resources in support of rollout and enables long-term planning to increase coverage rates, according to their statement.

Besides, they said the majority of donations to-date do not include the necessary vaccination supplies such as syringes and diluent, nor do they cover freight costs – meaning these have to be sourced separately – leading to additional costs, complexity and delay.

Unicef has recently reported an imminent shortfall of up to 2.2 billion auto-disable syringes for COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunization in 2022. This includes 0.3ml auto-disposable syringes for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination.

“Donated doses should be accompanied with all essential ancillaries to ensure rapid allocation and absorption,” the agencies said.