Race on to avoid vaccines expiry

AstraZeneca vaccine

Dr Willis Akhwale (centre) receives a consignment of 180,000 vaccines from Deputy Head of Mission at the Greece Embassy Sotirios Demestichas (right) and EU Deputy Head of Delegation Katrin Susann Hagemann. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has so far received five donations of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from India, South Sudan, Denmark, France and the UK.
  • The country is set to receive about 24 million doses from Covax and another 11 million from other sources such as the African Union.

The country is receiving many AstraZeneca vaccine donations with most of them only good until the end of this month while others are expected to go bad in two months’ time.

Experts are worried about the short expiration dates, saying the country might end up destroying hundreds of thousands of doses if Kenyans do not turn up in large numbers for the jabs.

Many wealthy nations that have since vaccinated substantial sections of their populations and have begun donating doses to developing countries. Some of the donations have shelf lives as short as two weeks.

Kenya has since told donors that it will only receive AstraZeneca doses with at least two months to expiry to allow enough time for use.

“In order to prevent more doses from expiring and give time for more to be vaccinated, we will only be accepting vaccines with at least eight weeks to expiry, ” said Covid-19 vaccine task force chairman Willis Akhwale.

The country has so far received five donations of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from India, South Sudan, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom.

Save for the consignment from France, which is set to expire on the last day of October this year, and the UK batch which is fairly new, some of the other donations expired last month and some will expire this month.

Insufficient supplies of vaccines

The AstraZeneca vaccine has a shelf life of six months.

“Most vaccines have a shelf life of six months but they take two months before they get to us. With the remaining four or even three months, we must have a vigorous vaccination process to avoid expiry,” said Dr Akhwale.

The country is set to receive about 24 million doses from Covax and another 11 million from other sources such as the African Union in plans to vaccinate 16 million people within 18 months.

While many African nations are grappling with insufficient supplies of Covid-19 vaccines and struggling to vaccinate amid rising hesitancy, some countries around the world are destroying thousands of unused doses since they received them close to their  expiry.

Kenya, however, is one of the countries that has used up more than 90 per cent of its stock of AstraZeneca vaccines supplied by Covax.

In order to fully exhaust the available doses, Dr Akhwale said the Health ministry has since unofficially opened up vaccination to all Kenyans aged 18 years and above and are back to administering the first dose for those who are yet to get it.

“Since we have enough doses now, we are opening it up to Kenyans who need the first dose,” he said. “We have quietly told healthcare workers to give vaccines instead of discarding them and we are going to make this public,” he said

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