The Ministry of Health has burned 19,610 expired doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
The incineration was carried out this morning at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.
Doses which have been destroyed were part of 102,000 doses which were donated by the African Union. The Ministry of Health said the vaccine arrived in Malawi at a time when they only had two weeks of shelf-life.
According to Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, the ministry wants to make sure that the expired vaccines are not administered to people. She expressed hope that the incineration will give confidence to the public about their safety.
“It is unfortunate because we do not want to lose a single dose. But the policy in place that any expired drug needs to be removed from the shelf and Covid19 vaccine was not exceptional,” she said.
Malawi announced the decision to destroy the vaccines last month but the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against the move. The WHO at the time said the expired vaccines are still safe to use 36 months after manufacture and advised African countries to keep hold of them.
However, on May 17 the WHO changed its position and advised African countries not to administer expired Covid-19 vaccines.
“While discarding vaccines is deeply regrettable in the context of any immunization programme, WHO recommends that these expired doses should be removed from the distribution chain and safely disposed,” the organisation said.
Malawi has administered 335,232 doses of the AstraZeneca since the vaccination programme was launched in March.