NAIROBI: Kenya announced on Wednesday that nearly 840,000 Covid-19 vaccines received through donations had expired, blaming hesitancy and a short shelf life for jabs going unused.
The doses of AstraZeneca were donated to Kenya through the global Covax vaccine equity initiative, the health ministry said in a statement.
“Any expired dose represents a missed opportunity to save a life,” the ministry said.
About 30 percent of the target population in Kenya has been vaccinated against the coronavirus but uptake has slowed considerably in recent weeks as prevalence of the disease has tapered off.
Early last month, some 252,000 vaccines were being administered per day across the country but that figure has plunged to as low as 30,000.
The ministry said uptake of the second jab had dropped sharply while some Kenyans were refusing certain vaccines – particularly AstraZeneca.
“We continue to witness vaccine hesitancy attributed to rumours and misinformation especially around fertility concerns,” the ministry said.
But it also noted the expired vaccines had arrived in January but perished on February 28, leaving little time to reach arms.
“Henceforth, Kenya will only accept donation of vaccines whose shelf-life is at least four months at the time of delivery,” the ministry said.
Kenya has received more than 27 million Covid-19 vaccines but only administered around 17.3 million shots.
The ministry said it had enough vaccines in store and urged more Kenyans to get the jab to avoid further expirations.
“We must all take individual responsibility in ensuring that when we have the opportunity to utilise available resources, we do not put them to waste instead.”
The government aims to double vaccinate 27 million Kenyans by the end of the year. So far it has achieved nearly eight million.
Nearly 5,650 people have died from coronavirus since the first case was recorded in Kenya on March 12, 2020, according to official figures.
Earlier this month, the government announced an easing of certain Covid-19 measures, including an end to mandatory mask wearing in public.