Friday, May 13 2022

The story at a glance

  • Africa’s top health official said at least 2.8 million donated doses of COVID-19 had recently expired.
  • He asked vaccine donors to only provide vaccines that can last at least three to six months before expiring.
  • Just under 62 percent of Africa’s vaccine supply has been administered of the approximately 500 million donated.

A top health official is asking vaccine donors to consider shots that have a longer shelf life as the world’s second largest continent reported that millions of doses had recently expired.

Speaking at a virtual briefing this week, Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director John Nkengasong explained that at least 2.8 million doses of donated COVID-19 vaccines had expired, saying that this was due to the short shelf life of vaccines. A growing number of African countries are beginning to refuse vaccine donations if they are only viable for one to two months before they expire, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“Any dose of vaccine that has expired hurts me because it’s a life that can potentially be saved,” Nkengasong said.

The AP noted that expired doses accounted for only about 0.5% of the total number of vaccines given to Africa.


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Storage and expiry rates vary by vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine requiring freezing temperatures, but it extends the shelf life of the vaccine up to six months. However, Moderna’s two-dose vaccinewhich also requires frozen storage, can only be used up to 30 days after being thawed and refrigerated.

the AstraZeneca vaccine does not require freezing temperatures and an unopened bottle has a shelf life of six months when stored in the refrigerator.

the latest Africa CDC data indicates that more than 10% of the nation has been fully vaccinated, while around 15% is considered partially vaccinated. Just under 62 percent of Africa’s vaccine supply has been administered, of the estimated 500 million donated.

Nkengasong said the biggest hurdle in African countries will be the logistics of getting COVID-19 doses to populations. According to the AP, in places like Nigeria, a growing number of vaccination centers are popping up in public hotspots like markets and car parks, as health authorities work with local leaders to tackle reluctance to the vaccination.

Vaccination rates vary widely across Africa, with South Africa reporting that, of its 59 million people, almost 21% are partially vaccinated. Moving to the central part of the continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a population of 89 million, less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated.

However, Africa is making slow progress as the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa announced Thursday that the country has seen a significant drop in cases and deaths for the first time since the peak of the current wave of the pandemic. Newly reported cases fell 20% in the week to January 16 while deaths fell 8%.

“As long as the virus continues to circulate, new pandemic waves are inevitable. Africa must not only expand vaccinations but also gain increased and equitable access to essential COVID-19 treatments to save lives and effectively fight this pandemic,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for COVID-19. Africa, in a press release.

Despite the slowdown in new COVID-19 cases, the WHO says the African region’s death rate remains the highest in the world, with just 2 intensive care unit beds available per 100,000 people.


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Posted on January 20, 2022

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