The Federal Ministry of Health says it has has been alerted to claims in the media that some Covid-19 vaccinations had expired in Nigeria.
These claims are however false, according to a press statement released on Wednesday by the Ministry.
The Federal Health Ministry said Nigeria has recently benefited from the generosity of a number of countries, especially in Europe, who have contributed free doses of Covid-19 vaccine from their stockpiles through the COVAX or AVAT facilities. These donations are usually much appreciated; however, some of them had just a few months’ remaining shelf life, leaving us with only a few weeks to use them after deducting time for shipping, clearing, distribution, and delivery to consumers. Logistic bottlenecks can develop when many vaccines arrive at the same time or in significant quantities.
“We appreciate the generous donations, but we also communicated the problem of short shelf lives, and some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life by 3 months after the fact, a practice that, while accepted by experts, is rejected by the Federal Ministry of Health because it does not meet our standards. Nigeria does not distribute vaccinations having a validity period that extends beyond the expiration date on the label. We will continue to uphold our high standards.
“Donation of surplus Covid-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to Developing Countries has been a matter of international discussion.
Developing countries like Nigeria accept them because they close our critical vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save us scarce foreign exchange procurement cost. This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves.
“Donors also recognize a need to give away unused vaccines, before they expire in their own stock, but they need to begin the process early enough and create a well-oiled pathway for prompt shipment and distribution through the COVAX and AVAT facilities, to reduce risk of expiration. With better coordination, vaccines need not expire in the stock of Donors or Recipients” the statement added.
Nigeria has utilized most of the over 10m short-shelf-life doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far supplied to us, in good time, and saved N16.4B or more than $40m in foreign exchange. The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by NAFDAC
The Ministry of Health shares its experience with partners regularly and now politely declines all vaccine donations with short shelf life or those that cannot be delivered in time.
The long term measure to prevent such incident is for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines, so that vaccines produced have at least 12 months to expiration. This is why the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity. This is a goal we are pursuing with dedication.