Health authorities in Malawi have incinerated 19,610 expired doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, saying it will reassure the public that any vaccines they do get are safe.
It is the first African country to publicly do this.
The World Health Organization initially urged countries not to destroy expired doses but has now changed its advice.
Uptake of the vaccine in Malawi has been low and health workers hope the move will increase public confidence.
Out of a population of about 18 million people, the country has recorded 34,232 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,153 deaths.
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Malawi received 102,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the African Union on 26 March and used almost 80%.
But the expiry date on the labels was 13 April so vials were taken out of the cold chain.
Malawi’s Principal Health Secretary told the BBC that it was unfortunate they had to destroy the vials but the benefits outweighed the risks.
“When news spread that we had out-of-date vaccines, we noticed that people were not coming to our clinics to get immunised,” said Dr Charles Mwansambo.
“If we don’t burn them, people we will think that we are using expired vaccines in our facilities and if they don’t come Covid-19, will hit them hard.”
He added that burning the doses was “just a formality” as they had already been destroyed.
Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda was photographed closing the incineration chamber on Wednesday.
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