BRUSSELS/LONDON 16 February 2022: AstraZeneca’s (NASDAQ: AZN) COVID-19 vaccine’s short shelf life is complicating rollout in poor nations, Reuters reported citing World Health Organization documents.
COVAX, a global initiative co-led by WHO aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has been impacted by the issue of the short shelf life of COVID-19 vaccines. Many vaccines are arriving with only a few months, and at times only weeks before their use-by date, according to the report.
The report said that most of the 19 listed African nations had expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, compared to a handful of countries with expired doses from other producers.
According to internal documents of WHO accessed by Reuters, for the week ending Feb. 6, of the total expired doses announced by the countries in the week, about 1.3M belonged to AstraZeneca, 280K were Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), 15K were from Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) and 13K were of Russia’s Sputnik.
West African nation Benin had received 80.4K doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from COVAX on Jan. 30, which were going to expire on Feb. 28. The country had also received 100K doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik Light, with the same expiration date, but outside the COVAX initiative. Vaccines from other producers had a longer shelf life, added the report citing the document.
The report noted that AstraZeneca said that since the beginning of worldwide rollout, more than 250M of its COVID shots left facilities with less than two-and-a-half months before expiration.
African countries consider that they require a minimum of two and a half months of shelf life to administer the doses, according to the report.
An AstraZeneca spokesperson replied to Reuters that almost nine out of 10 doses released from the company’s manufacturing sites ready for donation have a shelf life of at least two and a half months which is consistent with the rest of its supply chains.
The report added that taking into account only donated doses, about 30M doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were rejected or deferred in 2021 by poor nations, according to Gavi, an organization that co-runs COVAX. This total amounts to a quarter of AstraZeneca’s donated shots via COVAX.
The main issue is the vaccine’s shelf life of six months from the date of bottling, which is the shortest among COVAX’s top suppliers, Reuters reported citing COVAX and EU officials.