Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (C) lifts out a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca from a transit box at an official ceremony at a pharmaceutical incinerator where the vaccines are to be destroyed at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021. PHOTO: AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP
Malawi on Wednesday destroyed nearly 17,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that had expired in mid-April, with the health minister blaming “propaganda” for many Malawians’ reluctance to receive the jab.
“The batch which had expired (has) been withdrawn from our system and has been destroyed,” Health Minister Kumbize Kandodo said at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe.
The southern African country has so far received three batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine — 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine sharing facility, 50,000 from India, and 102,000 from the African Union.
Kandodo said the African Union batch had “two weeks of shelf life, and unfortunately, in those two weeks, we were not able to absorb everything, mostly due to the propaganda against the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
A pharmaceutical expert (L) opens a pack of expired Covid-19 Astra Zeneca vaccines to show to Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda (R) before they are destroyed in a furnace at a pharmaceutical incinerator at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on May 19, 2021. PHOTO: AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP
Austria this week became the third European country to drop AstraZeneca, after Norway and Denmark ditched the vaccine over rare cases of severe blood clots in people receiving the jab.
Kandodo said Wednesday: “We tried to assure Malawians and give them the faith” but wound up with 16,910 unusable doses of AstraZeneca, incinerated in a brief ceremony at the hospital.
Since Malawi launched its vaccination drive in March, it has inoculated 300,000 people of its target to reach 11 million, or 60 percent of the population, by the end of the year.
“We don’t want to lose any vaccine because we have a lot of people to vaccinate but… we have to remove all expired drugs from the system,” Kandodo said.