WHO urges African nations to keep expired COVID vaccines

Covid vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged African countries not to destroy Covid-19 vaccines that may have passed their expiry date.

Countries have been told to keep hold of them and wait for further guidance.

The appeal comes after Malawi and South Sudan said they would destroy more than 70,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab because they expired in mid-April.

But the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) said it had been assured the doses were safe to use.

Many vaccines can be used up to 36 months after manufacture, but because Covid-19 jabs are so new there is not enough data to prove their effectiveness over longer periods.

The final decision on whether to use expired jabs rests with national drug regulators.

The roll-out of coronavirus vaccines across Africa has been slow, partly because of supply issues and wider scepticism about the jab.

My appeal to member states is: if we are doing our part to mobilise these vaccines, you do your part and use the vaccines," John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, told a news conference on Thursday.

Malawi said it planned to destroy more than 16,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), because their expiry date was 13 April.

South Sudan, meanwhile, planned to discard some 59,000 doses for the same reason.