By Joseph Chikalipo
Lilongwe, May 19, Mana: Ministry of Health on Wednesday openly destroyed about 19,610 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine which expired on 13th April, 2021 for the sake of public health.
The third batch to arrive in Malawi was acquired from the African Union and had a shelf life of two weeks only upon arrival, was destroyed at Lilongwe Central Hospital in a pharmaceutical incinerator at 300 degrees Celsius.
Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who was present during the incineration of the vaccine highlighted that the government decided to fulfill its obligation and promise in public to show transparency and accountability.
“The government is trying to make every development in regards with Covid-19 as transparent as possible because it is a matter of public health and the general public has to be filled in on every development.
“We decided to destroy the expired vaccine despite getting assurance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that it is safe and we could still use it,” she said.
She added that the move is in compliance with the government policy that prohibits using expired commodities under no circumstances.
“Every drug that has expired is destroyed using a procedure and we get permission as well for that to happen.
“As such, we will ensure that we use the vaccine that is about to expire as soon as possible while closely monitoring the expiry date through records since we still have some unexpired vaccine in stock,” she said.
Furthermore, the minister encouraged the general public to ask those administering the vaccine to check the expiry date for verification.
Commenting on the development, the Secretary for Health, Dr. Charles Mwasambo expressed his disappointment the vaccine has been destroyed but acknowledge that it had to be done for health reasons.
“It is regrettable the batch has been destroyed because it took a lot of effort, time and money to manufacture the drug. However, for the sake of public health, this was a wise decision,” he said.
Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) Executive Director, George Jobe, commended government for listening to everyone who suggested that the vaccine should not be given to people.
“As civil society, we are delighted that what we lobbied for has come to fruition because government assured everyone that the vaccine will be destroyed.
“Better yet, we were invited to witness the process which is a good gesture from our leaders because we had the chance to verify and count the vaccines,” he said.
He added that this will rebuild the confidence of people who had doubts that the expired vaccine was going to be given to them.
The process also involved the signing of Certificate of Destruction which was signed by representatives from various bodies such as Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, National Audit Office, Malawi Police Service, Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Poisons, Pharmacy and Medicines Board.