Just over 46,000 people could have been fully vaccinated with the 92,370 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that expire tomorrow. Once expired these vaccines cannot be used and will be destroyed.
Health Ministry spokesman Foster Mohale said the expiring stock is equal to 0.24% of all Pfizer doses received, which is under the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 10% acceptable ratio of vaccine waste.
“We are concerned about the wastage. This could have increased our number of vaccinated people. Vaccine hesitancy is also a pandemic,” he said.
Another 897,270 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will expire in May; 5 845 800 will expire in June, and 4 831 560 will expire by the end of July. The shelf life of the vaccine from the date of manufacture is nine months.
The value of the vaccines due to expire tomorrow is R13-million. However, as this includes doses donated to South Africa it is not possible to say what the actual cost to the government is. Mohale said this will emerge after an audit by the Auditor General
No way to know how severe the 5th wave will be
The demand for vaccines has waned compared to at the start of the vaccination programme.
“Due to the less severe Omicron variant, people are more relaxed. Currently, the mortality rate and the infection rate are low. People think that covid is gone but it’s not gone.”
There was no way of knowing how severe the expected fifth COVID-19 wave will be as it is driven by different variants.
“We’re still living with COVID-19. We are not out of the woods. We will see another wave. We know the waves are driven by new variants. Imagine if the fifth wave is driven by a variant similar to Beta or Delta?”
Opening stadiums will help vaccination numbers
Government is confident that the opening of stadiums and other places where social gatherings take place will cause more people to get vaccinated.
“Fans will need to be vaccinated to gain access to the stadiums so it is a win-win situation. It will assist us to get more people vaccinated.”
Mohale added that the disposal of the expired vaccines will be done according to the relevant health, safety, and environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, the Department is looking at different ways to mitigate the wastage, including exchange and donation through COVAX Facility. However, not all countries use the same vaccines as those administered in South Africa. – Health-e News