- Says manufacturers extended the shelf life
- Notes that manufacturers often do that
- Asserts MoH applied due diligence nonetheless
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has refuted reports that rather than destroy the medicines, nurses have been instructed to use expired COVID-19 vaccines on secondary schools students, The Botswana Gazette has established.
Responding to enquiries from this publication, MoH spokesman Dr Christopher Nyanga said manufacturers extended the shelf life of certain batches of vaccines.
“What happened is that some vaccine manufactures wrote to all countries that had bought vaccines from them indicating that they had extended the shelf life of some specific batches of the concerned vaccines,” Dr Nyanga said.
“This happened for some vaccine batches that were due to expire in June and July 2022. The manufacturers informed all countries that had bought the said batches to extend the shelf life of the batches by three months.”
“Therefore, in the case of COVID-19 vaccines whose shelf life was extended, the manufacturers communicated their decision to all countries that bought those two batches, including Botswana.”
Nyanga added that the necessary due diligence was conducted before this was done. “After conducting its own due diligence, including getting approval from the Botswana Medical Regulations Authority (BOMRA), the ministry communicated the decision to extend the shelf life of the concerned batches to all its facilities across the country,” he explained.
“This is normal practice in medicine and was therefore not a first. It is common practice for medication manufacturers to advise clients to extend medications shelf life, reduce shelf life or even recall as they may see fit.”
“They do this following some continued observations. Therefore, it is not true that the ministry has taken a decision to use expired vaccine or authorised the use of such on any person.”
This comes after The Botswana Gazette probed reports that MoH was issued with an approval from BOMRA to instruct nurses to administer expired COVID-19 vaccines, particularly Pfizer, on secondary students to avoid disposing of the vaccines.
Early this year, MoH confirmed to this publication that over 400 000 vaccines worth millions of Pula had expired and were due to be disposed of. At the time, Nyanga attributed the expiry of the vaccines to low turnout of people at vaccination centres.
According to Nyanga then, even people eligible for COVID-19 booster shots were coming in low numbers, resulting in vaccines ultimately reaching their expiry dates unused.