The National Medical Stores (NMS) has clarified that it has not supplied Ugandans with any expired COVID-19 vaccines.
Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | An allegation made in Parliament of Uganda by Mr Jonathan Odur, the Erute South MP, that the National Medical Stores (NMS) has delivered expired COVID-19 vaccines to a number of vaccination centres across Uganda is FALSE.
During a debate in Parliament on Thursday 9 September 2021, Mr Odur accused the NMS of supplying AstraZeneca vaccines with an expiry date of September 2021 to several vaccination centres in the country.
“NMS delivered COVID-19 vaccines to a number of vaccination centres in the country, specifically AstraZeneca Vaccines packed in 4 milliliter bottles (PV46709) with expiry dates written EXP 08/2021 and EXP 09/2021. In effect, these vaccines have already expired,” said Mr Odur.
The legislator added that the program officer at the Ministry of Health, had directed the different vaccination centres to administer the said vaccines notwithstanding their status.
Mr Odur called upon the NMS not to administer the expired vaccines to the population, recall the said expired vaccines and urged the government not to receive vaccine donations whose expiry dates are due.
“The dangers of expired drugs and vaccines cannot be overstated. I have the following prayers; that the expired drugs should no longer be used to vaccinate the population, that NMS uses the same channels to recall this specific lot that has expired and that countries that are donating vaccines to us, should donate to us vaccines that have life in them,” Mr Odur said.
However, the NMS refuted the claim that the vaccines were expired and clarified that the said AstraZeneca doses would expire at the end of September 2021.
“This afternoon, Hon @JonaOdur (Erute South MP) made baseless allegations about NMS on the floor of Parliament. We would like to respond as follows: The Covid-19 vaccines we recently distributed expire at the end of this month, and that is how the donation was received,” the NMS responded on its official Twitter account.
The NMS further added that contrary to Mr Odur’s interpretation of the expiry date, the vaccine doses would be harmful after the last day of September 2021.
“Please note that the vial in question is marked 9/21. This means that you should not take the medicine after the end of the month given. For example, if the expiry date is July 2020, you should not take the medicine after 31 July 2020,” NMS added.
The NMS Executive Director and General Manager Moses Kamabare, said that the Erute South MP Mr Jonathan Odur made a false claim.
“The COVID-19 vaccines we recently distributed expire at the end of this month (September 30th, 2021). That is how the donation was received,” said Mr Kamabare in the New Vision.
Mr Kamabare explained that all COVID vaccines have six months between manufacture and expiry.
“We expect all vaccines in our stock to be used before expiry given the quantities supplied and the huge demand in the districts,” Mr Kamabare added.
The Minister of Information, Communications Technology and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, told Parliament that there were no expired vaccines in circulation.
He, however, confirmed that there are a number of AstraZeneca vaccines scheduled to expire on 30 September 2021. The minister was optimistic that the government would administer all the doses of the COVID-19 vaccines before their expiry dates.
Dr. Baryomunsi informed the August House (as cited in the Parliament of Uganda Hansard (2.30), accessed 9 September 2021) that NMS had two batches of vaccines. He said that the first batch, (batch No. PV46705) came into the country on 18 August 2021 with a total of 247,680 doses.
He added that the second batch (batch No. PV 46706) equally arrived in the country on the same date with a total of 51,841 doses.
“NMS distributed these vaccines starting on August 20, 2021 in all parts of the country. There are few doses remaining and information from the Ministry of Health is that by the end of next week the vaccines would be utilized all,” said Dr. Baryomunsi as cited in the Parliament of Uganda Hansard (2.30), accessed 9 September 2021.
The minister further noted that the guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health is that when vaccines are expired they have to be withdrawn and cannot be used on humans.
The Ministry of Health in a tweet, responding to the matter raised by Mr Jonathan Odur said that no vaccines have expired as alleged. They confirmed that the uptake of vaccines is high and will be fully utilized by the end of 30 September 2021. The Ministry of Health assured the public that more vaccines are scheduled to arrive between September and October 2021 to cover the target population.
“A vaccine expected to expire this month does not mean it’s bad. That vaccine can be used until the last day of the month. In this case, it is September 30. COVID-19 vaccines normally have a six-month shelf life, but by the time they arrive here from the countries, some time has passed. But this does not mean we are giving people expired vaccines. NDA makes sure that people are getting good vaccines,” Mr Abiaz Rwamwiri, the National Drug Authority (NDA) Principle Public Relations officer told The Independent magazine (Uganda).
The Kampala Dispatch has looked into an allegation made in Parliament by Mr Jonathan Odur, the Erute South MP, that the National Medical Stores (NMS) has delivered expired COVID-19 vaccines to a number of vaccination centres across Uganda and finds it to be FALSE.