NaCOVERC’s attention has been drawn to a BBC report suggesting that nine (9) African countries including Sierra Leone have destroyed a total of 450,000 COVID-19 vaccines.
That report emanates from a briefing done by Dr Richard Mihigo (the WHO Africa Regional Office Program Area Manager for Immunization and Vaccine Development). Dr Mihigo was essentially stating the consequence of delays in vaccine shipment. If by the time vaccines are shipped, they are very close to expiration, there is a strong likelihood some of them will not be used.
Sierra Leone received 42,000 doses of Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine from the AU on 20th March 2021, to expire on 13th April. The shelf-life was less than a month. As a Response, we were able to operationalize the roll-out immediately; and once we knew that the expiration period had kicked in the following month, the decision was made not to administer the remaining 13,000. Let it be made clear that Sierra Leone does not destroy vaccines just like that.
The public would further recall that we received a donation of 96,000 doses of Oxford-Astrazeneca from the COVAX scheme. We successfully utilized those 96,000 doses before their expiry on 16th July.
As WHO, Africa CDC and other well-meaning institutions and individuals continue to make a clarion call for equity in vaccine distribution, we join those compelling voices in our passionate appeal for greater and quicker access to WHO-approved vaccines.
NaCOVERC and Ministry of Health and Sanitation continue to work assiduously to make sure that our people have those life-saving jabs in their arms; and will not walk the senseless path of destroying vaccines which are meant to save lives and break the chain between infections and hospitalization.