Most of COVID-19 vaccines expire at NMS – John Muwanga

At least 5.6 million COVID-19 vaccines, worth 28.15 billion Shillings have expired at the National Medical Stores (NMS).The expired vaccines are out of a total of 12.59 million vaccines in store, according to the latest audit report for the financial year ended June 30, 2023, presented to Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among by Auditor General John Muwanga.

“More expired Covid-19 vaccines still lie in various health facilities across the country and the total combined loss to be incurred next year (2024) is estimated at 300 billion Shillings. These are vaccines procured out of the World Bank loan advanced for COVID-19 support,” reads the report.

The Auditor General adds that the National Medical Stores (NMS) has a non-viable or expired stock of drugs worth 33 billion Shillings, which was a 153 percent increase from 13.4 billion the year prior. He adds that these majorly include Anti-retroviral medications (ARVs) which expire due to mainly changes in the recommended treatment guidelines by the World Health Organization.

In the report, Muwanga indicates that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Diana Atwine explained that the procurement of the Covid-19 vaccines was done based on speculation since the pandemic was still around and that the government had committed the manufacturers with conditional grants from the World Bank to produce and deliver vaccines which could not be halted.

The audit report quotes Atwine saying that funds have been secured from GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance to manage the recovery of all expired COVID-19 vaccines and their destruction.

“I await action on the recovery of all expired COVID-19 vaccines from all the health facilities across the country and the eventual destruction of all expired vaccines. Meanwhile government is advised to ensure that in such emergencies prudent planning is prioritized,” Muwanga added.

He also advised the Accounting Officer of NMS to appropriately align the budget for the Essential Medicines and Health Supplies (EMHS)with the demand to avoid stocking drugs and ensure adequate and timely distribution and delivery of drugs and health supplies to the respective health facilities.

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