Europe sent Nigeria up to 1 million nearly expired doses of covid-19 vaccine
As many as 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine reportedly expired before they could be used in Nigeria, a West African country of more than 200 million where less than 2% of the population is fully vaccinated.
According to Reuters, the doses were sent from Europe through Covax, a program to distribute covid-19 vaccines donated by rich countries.
A source with knowledge of the delivery said some of the doses arrived within four-to-six weeks of expiry and could not be used in time, despite efforts by Nigerian health authorities.
Vaccine waste routinely occurs in large immunization campaigns, and rich countries such as the US, UK, and Canada have been especially cavalier in letting millions of doses expire and destroying them, even as the rest of the world was short on supplies.
But what happened in Nigeria is a different issue: Not only is the number of wasted doses very large, but they arrived relatively close to their expiration date, in a county not yet equipped to ensure rapid distribution, offering yet another indicator of the severity and complexity of vaccine inequality.
The blunder in Nigeria isn’t the first. In November, despite needing vaccine doses, Namibia warned it would be forced to destroy doses because their remaining shelf life wasn’t long enough to allow for distribution.
South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Malawi similarly had to destroy or return doses of vaccines donated by wealthy countries because they didn’t receive them in time to distribute them before expiration.
One year after the global vaccination campaign started, rich countries continue to hoard vaccines, pretty much limiting their global redistribution efforts to leftover doses arriving too late for their usefulness to be fully maximized.