2 million Covid-19 Vaccines go to waste – Ministry of health report

Over 1.9 million vaccines have been wasted during the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, according to records from the Ministry of Health.

Uganda has received a total of 44.7 million vaccine doses since March 2021. 

But of these,  1,986,297 vaccine doses were wasted during the vaccination process, the majority of them as a result of closed vial wastage which occurs when vaccine vials are not kept at the necessary temperature during storage or transportation.

More than 10,000 doses were wasted through spilling or physical damage, while about 158,431 doses of vaccines had expired as of March 2022.

According to Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the Incident Manager in Charge of Vaccination at the Ministry of Health, the highest wastage was recorded in Northern Uganda, where many people refused to get vaccinated using the Moderna vaccine. 

The Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine is stored frozen and with limited exposure to light, direct sunlight and ultraviolet light.

The Vaccine can be stored refrigerated between 2°C to 8°C for up to 30-days prior to first use, and discarded 12-hours after the first puncture, according to medics. 

But the storage conditions were not possible for many health centres in the countryside, some of which are dealing with intermittent power supply.

But Dr Kyabayinze says that despite the number of wasted vaccines, the country is still within the acceptable World Health Organisation limits which indicate that vaccine wastage should not exceed 5 per cent.

At the start of the vaccination exercise last year, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr Alfred Driwale cautioned health workers about reducing vaccine wastage.

 Dr Driwale said that the wastage of vaccines affects the country’s stocks because donors will not be willing to donate to persons who are not using the vaccines.

“We have very few vaccines and it is important that health workers ensure that all the vaccines that are received at vaccination sites end up in the arms of people,” he said.

All of the vaccines that have been used in the country have been multi-dose vials where one vial contains at least 10 doses of the vaccine. 

For instance, some the vaccines like AstraZeneca need to be used within six hours after opening a vial. To reduce such wastage, the ministry of health had initially proposed that vaccine vials be opened only when there are enough people to utilize all the content of an open vial.

As of last month, 43 per cent of the targeted 22 million Ugandans are fully vaccinated. 

However, with the reduction in uptake of the vaccine, Dr Kyabayinze says they cannot chase people away because the vaccines will be wasted. 

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