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Africa CDC urges nations to use vaccines despite expiry issue confusion

The top official at the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has called on nations to not throw out Covid vaccines over confusion about whether the jabs received had expired, stating they are safe to use.

Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong made the plea to countries across the continent amid some confusion about the expiration date of doses that had arrived in Malawi and South Sudan. The jabs had been provided through the African Union (AU) vaccine program but were not given to the public before the April 13 expiration date listed on the packets.

The expiry date confusion has resulted in Malawi announcing it will destroy more than 16,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab and South Sudan temporarily shelving 59,000 doses. However, after investigation from the Serum Institute, which manufactured the jabs, the Africa CDC said they were safe to be administered until July 13.

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Speaking on Thursday, Nkengasong issued a call to governments, stating that “if we are doing our part to mobilize these vaccines, you do your part and use the vaccines.” 

The WHO’s Africa Director, Matshidiso Moeti, expressed a similar view, saying that his “understanding is that the expiry date could be several months longer than had initially been envisaged."

Despite these pleas from health officials, it’s not clear if the countries affected will listen. Malawi’s Health Ministry did not respond directly to the Africa CDC’s comments but said destroying the jabs is in line with their internal policy on drugs. South Sudan’s Drugs and Food Control Authority similarly said it was down to the Health Ministry to decide whether to use the vaccines.

The rollout in Africa has been slower than other countries due to issues securing a large enough supply of doses for a mass vaccination campaign. While the continent has a population of more than 1.3 billion, only 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Africa so far.

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