Health Ministry recalls unutilized COVID-19 Vaccines ahead of expiry date

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Uganda's ministry of health directed districts to hand over unutilized AstraZeneca vaccines; Courtesy Photo

Uganda’s ministry of Health has directed that all vaccines that have not been utilized at the districts will be withdrawn with effect from today 27th May 2021.

According to Dr Henry Mwebesa -the Director Heath Services, a meeting of the Strategic Committee in consultation with the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Vaccine Advisory Committee held on 18th May 2021 resolved that vaccines be withdrawn from the poorly performing districts to avoid wastages and expiry of the vaccines due next month.

“MOH has observed rom its records that a number of districts have not fully utilized the doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that was allocated to them, yet this life saving vaccine has a very short shelf life and due to expire on the 10th July 2021” Dr Henry Mwebesa -the Director Health services said.

The meeting, Dr Mwebesa said some districts mainly in South Western regions have performed very well and have been allocated additional vaccines, while others mainly in the Eastern and Northern regions have performed poorly.

It was resolved that unutilized vaccines from all districts be withdrawn as an emergency and given to the population most at risk.

“This exercise should commence on the 27th May 2021. Communication was sent to the Chief Administrative Officers, Chairpersons LCV’s, Resident District Commissioners and District Health Officers informing them of this impending withdrawal” Dr Henry Mwebesa said.

“The district leadership are requested to cooperate with teams from National Medical Stores and release all vaccines vials in their possession. Only 10 vials will be retained by the districts for purposes of giving the second dose to those who are eligible” he said.

The vaccines Dr Mwebesa said are due to expire on the 10th of July 2021. “To avoid such a catastrophe, it is extremely important that the vaccines are withdrawn” he stated.

MOH says, the withdrawn vaccines will be reprogrammed for vaccination of the population in Kampala Metropolitan Area where the infection rate by COVID 19 is high.

MOH also says penalties will be slapped on non-cooperative public servants owing to the importance attached to the vaccines.

“Take note that there will be penalties for those that waste vaccines or allow vaccines in their possession to expire yet these are very expensive lifesaving vaccines”

On 10th March 2021, Uganda rolled out a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign using AstraZeneca vaccines acquired from India through COVAX facility. Of the 964,000 doses, slightly more than 541,000 doses have been administered.

Dr Mwebesa however said, a district that demonstrates commitment to utilize the doses in their facilities with evidence of good progress may be considered to retain some vaccines vails.

Uganda is currently experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections with statistics showing that the number of cases and deaths are increasing. MOH data shows that the most affected age group is 20-39 years old.

Results of COVID-19 tests done on 24 May 2021 confirm 207 new cases raising cumulative confirmed cases to 44,281, with 359 deaths so far registered.

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