The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kuma Aboagye, has stated that only a small number of COVID-19 vaccine doses had to be discarded because they could not be used before their expiry date.
He explained that a major factor for this was the limited time available for the GHS to innoculate Ghanaians before the doses expired.
Citi News reported last week that some vials containing the COVID-19 vaccine had gone to waste in the Northern Region, at a time where many Ghanaians are struggling to receive their first dose.
But responding to the media reports, Dr. Kuma Aboagye explained that while it was unfortunate that some of the doses had been wasted due to the limited time available, the health staff still discharged themselves creditably during the vaccination exercise.
“The truth of the matter is that, with the last batch of vaccines that were received, the expiry date was the 13th of April. All regions were able to use it except for the 480 doses that could not be used in the Northern Region and the 100 doses in the Oti Region. So if you look at the wastage, the numbers are not so much. If you look at the time frame that we had, it affected the EPI program, although the health personnel tried with the vaccination,” he said.
The Northern Regional Health Directorate confirmed that about 480 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had gone to waste due to its inability to exhaust its supply of vaccines at the close of the vaccination exercise on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
According to the Directorate, the decision to end the exercise was a precautionary measure taken on the advice of the Food and Drugs Authority, as the current AstraZeneca vaccines available in the region are expected to expire on Friday, April 16.
In a Citi News interview, the Director in charge of Public Health, Hilarious Abiwu, explained that the AstraZeneca vaccines which were produced on October 16, 2020, were expected to be used within six months, after which they are likely to lose their potency.
“This batch of vaccines was manufactured on 16 October 2020 and FDA approves that we can use it within six months. So effectively, the sixth month will be the 16th [of April], so for safety reasons, FDA anticipated that we shouldn’t vaccinate to the very last day. So we had three clear days to the six months date,” he explained.
The Northern Region began its COVID-19 vaccination exercise on March 26, 2021, with some 17,000 doses targeting health workers.
The exercise, which was intended to last for five days was extended due to some technical challenges and low turnout by health workers.
According to the regional health directorate, 30.1 per cent of health workers in the region took the vaccine by the close of the seventh day.
The region later received additional, 10,000 doses of the vaccine, which was then extended to priority groups including, the security services, UN agencies, churches and some government institutions.