Countries across Africa have destroyed at least 450,000 expired COVID-19 vaccine doses since the continent started rolling out vaccinations in March.
Malawi, South Sudan, Liberia, Mauritania, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Comoros, and the Democratic Republic of Congo lead the group of countries where hundreds of life-saving shots have gone to waste.
Malawi was the first country to publicly destroy vaccine doses in May.
In mid MArch, the African Union’s vaccine acquisition initiative shared roughly 900,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to 13 African nations, being a donation from telco giant MTN which had a use by date of April 13.
However, the Serum Institute of India, which manufactured the shipment, extended the shelf-life by three months.
The decision by India’s Serum Institute to delay overseas shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine as COVID-19 crisis wracked the Asian country has left many countries across the world scrambling for enough doses to inoculate their populations against the disease.
In some cases, vaccine shipments arrived with limited shelf life, sometimes expiring before they can even be deployed.
“It’s deplorable,” Dr Richard Mihigo, the program area manager for immunization and vaccine development at the World Health Organization Africa regional office said.
Meanwhile, about 52 million people in Africa have been vaccinated since the start of vacination in March.
Of those, only 18 million are fully vaccinated, according to reports, representing just 1.5 per cent of the continent’s population.
Some African countries, including Namibia, are expected to benefit from Germany’s just-announced donation of 30 million COVID-19 vaccines, 80 per cent of which will be dispensed through COVAX.
Still, German authorities say they aren’t budging on relaxing intellectual property rights to the vaccines.
Further, a total of 50 African countries are set to receive 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the US, after President Joe Biden pledged to share 80 million US-made vaccines, with the first shipments to Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Ethiopia expected in the coming days.
“In partnership with the African Union and COVAX, the United States is proud to donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries. The Biden Administration is committed to leading the global response to the pandemic by providing safe and effective vaccines to the world,” Gayle Smith, the US State Department’s coordinator for COVID-19 recovery and global health, said in the statement.
In Kenya, about 582,000 people have received their second dose of AstraZeneca with the proportion of those fully vaccinated now standing at 2.1 per cent.
Ministry data shows that 1,038,074 people have received their first jab, while the government has administered 1,620,465 vaccine jabs since the exercise.