The Department of Health has confirmed that about 92 370 doses of Pfizer vaccine are due to expire on 31 March and will be disposed of according to minimum standard for the disposal and destruction of medicines and scheduled substances.
The current volume due to expire is equivalent to 0.24% of all Pfizer doses received, which is under the World Health Organization (WHO) 10% acceptable ratio of vaccine waste.
But millions of vaccine doses are set to expire soon.
The current stock of Pfizer vaccine have the following expiry dates:
- 897 270 doses to expire in May
- 5 845 800 to expire in June
- 4 831 560 are facing expiry by the end of July.
The Department says every effort is being made to ensure that vaccines are utilised efficiently, and that wastage is minimised.
Spokesperson Foster Mohale says in contrast to the demand at the start of the vaccination programme, the current demand for vaccine has waned.
The Department continues to explore various options to mitigate the wastage of vaccines as a result of expiry, including exchange and donation through COVAX Facility.
However, not all countries use the same vaccines as those administered in South Africa, while other countries are also facing low vaccine uptake.
The challenge of vaccine hesitancy is not only experienced in South Africa, but globally, and several countries had to dispose of expired vaccines as well.
Additionally, some countries that could potentially accept the vaccines do not have the necessary infrastructure to safely store these vaccines at the required ultra-cold chain temperature to prevent avoidable wastage.
Mohale has urged all unvaccinated and partly vaccinated people to fully vaccinate and get booster shots to enhance their protection from severe illness and death, especially ahead of the fifth wave, which is expected in winter.