Health Dept explains move to destroy more than 90,000 COVID vaccine doses

A total of 92,370 Pfizer vials will reach their expiration date on the last day of this month and will be disposed of, in line with industry standards.

FILE: Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccine doses. Picture: Daniel Leal/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Health said that it had been flooded with inquiries since announcing that more than 80,000 COVID-19 vaccines would likely be destroyed on Thursday when they expired.

In a statement released overnight, the department said that given the short shelf life of the Pfizer jab, countries around the world had been trying to roll out these vaccines before they expired.

A total of 92,370 Pfizer vials will reach their expiration date on the last day of this month and will be disposed of, in line with industry standards.

The department said that it would be destroying the equivalent of 0.24% of all Pfizer doses received in this country, which was under the World Health Organization's 10% acceptable ratio of vaccine waste.

It pointed out that in contrast to the demand at the start of the vaccination programme, the current demand for vaccines had waned.

The department said that it was looking at all options to mitigate the wastage of vaccines as a result of expiry, including exchange and donation through the Covax facility.

However, not all countries use the same vaccines as those administered here in South Africa, and nations do not have the necessary infrastructure to safely store them at the required temperature.