The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency ( NPHCDA) in collaboration with the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), on Wednesday destroyed 1, 066, 214 expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking during the exercise at the Gosa Dumpsite in Abuja, Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said the destroyed vaccines were withdrawn before their expiration date.
He said the exercise demonstrates the standards within which the vaccination programme operates in the country.
He said, “The work that we do requires trust. It is a sacred duty that is bestowed on us by the generality of Nigerians. We guide that trust very jealously. That is why we are destroying these vaccines that have expired today.”
Shuaib said the country was aware that the vaccines had short shelf life when they were donated but accepted them because of the unavailability of vaccines, and the need to protect Nigerians from COVID-19.
He said health workers in the country worked round the clock to ensure that most of the vaccines were administered before they expired.
He said, “ A few months ago, when they vaccines were offered to us , we knew they had a short shelf life but we live in an environment where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines were very scarce due to vaccine nationalism.
“There were developed countries that procured these vaccines and hoarded them in their stores , and at the point that they were about to expire, they were offered for donation.
“While we appreciate the donation from these countries, we have to acknowledge the fact that they were almost expired vaccines. But because we wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians, we accepted to them , we worked in collaboration with NAFDAC to test and ensure that the vaccines were in good condition and then we rolled them out under difficult circumstances.
“We ensured that our health workers worked round the clock under extreme situations to make sure that Nigerians are vaccinated.”
He said so far, over 10 million Nigerians have been vaccinated with short shelf live vaccines.
“If we were to wait until much later when vaccines would be widely available, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten any Nigerian vaccinated by now,” he added.
The NPHCDA boss said the country has been able to save over $40 million worth of resources that could be ploughed into other areas of the health sector.
While assuring Nigerians that the vaccines are effective and safe, he said the agency would continue to vaccinate until 70 percent of the country’s eligible population, achieve herd immunity.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said short shelf-life vaccines pose a challenge to the country, adding that however, “ because of the love of country, the agencies decided to work with the short time span.”
She said the destroyed vaccines were manufactured about seven to eight months ago.
“When products expire, we don’t give them to people especially vaccines that can interact with the cell , and work at the cellular level.”
The NAFDAG DG added that local manufacturing of vaccines would help tackle vaccine unavailability in the country.