21 APRIL 2021
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), seeks to clarify the management of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines received through a donation to the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), the entity responsible for leading the continent’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.
In mid-March, AVATT shipped 925,000 of doses Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to 13 AU Member States. All countries were informed of the limited expiration date of 13 April 2021. Given the urgent need to save as many lives as possible, countries were informed by the Africa CDC to vaccinate quickly and to focus the vaccination campaign specifically on the inoculation of health care workers.
Africa CDC subsequently received concerns regarding the 13 April 2021 expiration date, and took swift action to resolve. The Serum Institute of India, from which the vaccines were procured, advised and sent a formal letter indicating an approved “shelf-life extension” for an additional three months, through 13 July 2021.
During a time where access to COVID-19 vaccines is particularly difficult for Africa, utilizing an entire vaccine consignment could have been accomplished without much challenge. For example, if a country committed to administering a minimum of 5,000 vaccine doses per day for just 10 days, an entire consignment of vaccines could have been fully utilized well before the listed manufacturer expiration date.
For countries that felt they couldn’t use their vaccine consignments, the Africa CDC was able to redistribute the much-needed vaccines to other Member States. Because of vaccine scarcity, this donation was a step in the right direction to reaching Africa’s goal of vaccinating 60% of the continent’s population. It is indeed, critical to use such donations in a timely fashion in order to save lives and bring the pandemic to an end on the continent.