Govt seeks funds to destroy expired COVID vaccines

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Govt seeks funds to destroy expired COVID vaccines
President Musebeni takes COVID jab at the height of the pandemic in 2021. It was administer Health minister PS Diana Atwine, once her private doctor

Legislators on the Health Committee say by December 2023, 10 million COVID-19 vaccines had expired in NMS stores.

HEALTH | The National Medical Stores (NMS) has a staggering Shs400 billion-loss stockade of out-of-demand COVID-19 vaccines that need to be disposed of - and for this, it needs funds.

Legislators on the Health Committee led by their chairperson, Dr Francis Ayume, say by December 2023, 10 million COVID-19 vaccines had expired in NMS stores.

“COVID- 19 vaccines are on low demand and this leads to expiry of the stock in the medical stores and demanding for funds for incineration," Dr Agume said.

"By December 2023, 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines had expired due to low uptake. Funds should be provided to National Medical Stores for retrieval and incineration of expired COVID-79 vaccines and related supplies.

Dr Ayume did not specify the amount of funds needed for the incineration and efforts to get a comment from NMS were futile.

However, Dr Ayume told Nile Post separately that NMS and the National Drug Authority will have to cost the incineration value.

"It is the National Drug Authority that bills NMS for the destruction of the vaccines," the Koboko Municipality MP added.

The vaccines were stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world between January 2020 and into 2022.

In January, audit report revealed that more than 5.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, purchased through a World Bank loan by the government, had expired.

The last World Bank funding for vaccine came in December 2021, when it approved $180 million (Shs684 billion) in additional financing for the COVID-19 Response and Emergency Preparedness Project.

But by January's Auditor General report, the vaccines that had to be withdrawn from health facilities and destroyed were valued at Shs28.1 billion.

Retiring Auditor-General John Muwanga, at the time, indicated that the government was staring at total losses from expired COVID vaccines excess of $78m (about Shs400 billion) by year-end.

Moses Kamabare, chief executive of NMS, said back then that declining demand was the main contributor to the stock pileup and expiry.

Additionally, COVID vaccines faced resistance from a section of the so-called anti-vaxxers globally, with the Uganda government forced into threats to prosecute certain individuals for speaking against the vaccine.

Among them was veteran journalist turned politician Joseph Kabuleta, who was arrested for his critical views against the jabs, especially those compulsory rule slapped by government on school-going children.

Nailing down his call for the funding for vaccine incineration, Dr Ayume said there is persistent underfunding to NMS.

"The current funding gap stands at Shs232.54 billion, which is worsened by the withdrawal of external support," he said.

Some donors withdraw funding support to Uganda last year over the controversial anti-gay law.

The aid cuts targeted critical sectors like health, with funding for malaria, tuberculosis and and immunisation affected - in an apparent move to wring the government's neck into backtracking on the law.

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