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Covid live news: poorer countries forced to refuse 100 million nearly expired coronavirus vaccines; Spain offers fourth dose to the vulnerable

Poorer countries rejected more than 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines distributed by the global program last month COVAX, mainly because of their fast expiration date, a UNICEF official said.

Etleva Kadilli, director of the agency’s supply department, told lawmakers in the European Parliament that the main reason for rejection was the supply of doses with a short shelf life, Reuters reports.

More than 100 million have been rejected in December alone.”

Poorer countries have also been forced to delay supplies because they have insufficient storage facilities, Kadilli said, including a lack of refrigerators for vaccines.

Many countries are also experiencing a high level of vaccine hesitancy and have overburdened health care systems.

A Kenyan soldier guards a shipment of 182,000 AstraZeneca vaccines in Nairobi. UNICEF says poorer countries rejected more than 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines last month. Photo: Brian Inganga/AP

UNICEF’s data on deliveries and use of delivered vaccines shows that 681 million shipped doses are currently stored in about 90 poorer countries, according to CARE, a charity, which pulled the numbers from a public database.

More than 30 poorer countries, including major states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, have used less than half of the doses received, CARE said. The organization added:

We MUST invest in last-mile deliveries to get vaccines from the asphalt to the guns. Countries need delivery support — including for health workers, cold chains and education programs to counter vaccine reluctance — if they are to use all the vaccines they receive.”

A spokesperson for Gavi, a vaccine alliance that co-runs COVAX, said the high stockpile level was due to a sharp surge in deliveries in the last quarter, especially in December.

Gavi added that most of the vaccines recently shipped by COVAX had a long shelf life and were therefore unlikely to be wasted.

COVAX, which is co-led by the World Health Organization, has so far delivered 987 million Covid-19 vaccines to 144 countries, according to data from Gavi.

Wealthy countries donating vaccines with relatively short shelf lives are a “big problem” for COVAX, a senior WHO official said last month.