The expired AstraZeneca vaccines which Malawi received as a donation from the African Union (AU) are set to be destroyed on Wednesday 19th May, 2021.
According to Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr. Charles Mwansambo, after collecting all the expired vials from the district and tallying the doses given, the physical count is 19,610 doses.
This stance was also reiterated by President Lazarus Chakwera in his recent interview with CNN that Malawi will not use the expired vaccine despite a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) vouching on its efficacy that it is still safe to use.
President Chakwera stuck to the decision arguing that his administration continues to be cautious on the choices it makes for its people.
“We don’t want people thinking that we are settling just for anything that comes our way even if it is expired. People shouldn’t be thinking that we are a dumping ground; and so in as much as we understand how that the efficacy of the same would still be there several months after expiry, we just need to be very very careful so our people do not feel that they are being shortchanged by their leadership,” said Chakwera.
Asked by host Zain Asher if he does not trust the recommendation to still use the shots considering that Malawi finds itself in a desperate situation when it comes to the vaccine roll-out Chakwera responded:
“WHO has been saying a lot of things that have not been accepted everywhere you know uniformly, and so what we’re saying is we need to sensitise our people and it is our duty to be able stand with our people so that we can move together.
“It’s not a matter of trying to force everyone to take vaccines but rather to lobby everyone to do that so we can save more lives,” he argued.
In an earlier interview health rights activist Maziko Matemba, noted not many people are going to get vaccinated so use of expired shots might bring a lot of issues despite the UN agency having a different position on the matter.
He stated WHO’s stand was based on guidance from the manufacturer and issues that arose from the low vaccine uptake in Malawi.
“As a country we really need to make a position so that we don’t lose out the vaccination process currently underway which has seen a lot of hesitancy but also a lot of issues
“For us as advocates what we are urging WHO and the government to reconcile so that these vaccines they should be destroyed so that the next lot of vaccines that’s where we need a lot of work for organising communities so that the vaccines doesn’t reach to the expiry date.
“In terms of the expiry of the vaccine, if indeed there are some scientific evidence that these vaccines cannot be used, I think we need to have proper a guidance which can be able to come in so that government utilize the information as well so that the public can be able to know and be able to appreciate,” he explained.
Commenting on the delay to incinerate the injections, he suspected this could have been because AstraZeneca is a new injection and that government may have be seeking guidance from WHO other partners who donated it on how it can be destroyed.
“I know that these are vaccines and maybe the destroying of the vaccines they have a mechanism so that those vaccines might not be able to affect the community or might not affect other systems in place so I think those are some of the things that might delay,” said Matemba.