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Poorer nations reject millions of expiring COVID vaccines

Christian Fernsby |
The program to help poorer nations to vaccinate their populations against Covid-19 is facing a problem, as many donations have a remaining shelf life too short to be properly distributed, a UN official has revealed.

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In December alone, over 100 million doses offered to the UN’s COVAX program had to be rejected by aid recipients, most of them due to the looming expiration dates of the vaccines, Etleva Kadilli told the European Parliament on Thursday. The official heads the Supply Division of UNICEF, the UN’s agency for the betterment of children’s lives worldwide.

The agency later in the day said some 15.5 million of the doses rejected last month were reportedly destroyed. Some of the shipments were rejected by multiple countries.

Poorer nations have a number of issues with accepting the vaccines donated to them. Many lack storage capacity to receive shipments and have problems with rolling out vaccination campaigns due to factors like domestic instability and strained healthcare infrastructure.

But the short expiration dates of vaccines donated to the sharing program is also a major problem, Kadilli told EU lawmakers.

“Until we have a better shelf life, this is going to be a pressure point for the countries, specifically when countries want to reach populations in hard-to-reach areas,” she said.

COVAX is currently approaching the delivery of its billionth dose, its management reported. The EU accounts for about a third of the doses delivered to it so far, Kadilli said.

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