The African country of Malawi says it will burn 19,610 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines that have expired to gain public trust. The World Health Organization (WHO) initially urged countries not to destroy expired doses, but later changed its recommendation. Officials hope the move will convince the public that the vaccine is safe in the country with high vaccine rejection.
Malawi, located in the southeast of the African continent, received 102,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from the African Union on March 26 and used almost 80 percent of them. However, since the expiration date on the labels is April 13, the remaining vaccines have been removed from the cold chain.
Malawi’s chief medical officer, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, said it was unfortunate that they destroyed vaccine doses, but the benefits of doing so outweighed the risks.
“When word spread that we had expired vaccines, we realized that people didn’t come to our clinics to get vaccinated. If we don’t burn them, they’ll think we’re using expired vaccines in our facilities, and if they don’t get vaccinated, Covid-19 will hit them hard.”
Dr. Mwansambo also reported that it is difficult to convince adults in the country to get vaccinated.
On the streets of the capital Lilongwe, some people also expressed concern about the safety of the vaccine. However, the link between the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and rare blood clots has not yet been proven, and health experts say the risk of Covid-19 is much higher. They advise people to get vaccinated if they can.
Malavi, on the other hand, is not the only country in Africa where vaccines have expired. The WHO initially 100,000 people from the affected countries told them to keep the vaccines until they could still be used. But the agency now says vaccines with a predetermined expiration date by the manufacturer should be destroyed.
“While the disposal of vaccines is extremely regrettable in the context of any vaccination program, WHO recommends that these expired doses be removed from the distribution chain and disposed of safely,” the agency said in a statement on May 17th.
Meanwhile, the country of 18 million people has so far recorded 34,232 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,153 deaths. In Malawi, where 1.8 doses per 100 people were vaccinated, 335,000 doses were administered.