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 A laboratory specialist secures samples taken from potential coronavirus patients in Juba, South Sudan, June 19, 2020. Photo AP


JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan health officials have stopped administering 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine that are past the expiration date but still have a shelf life of at least six months, according to the drugmaker and the World Health Organization.  

The doses, which were donated by the mobile telecommunications network MTN and the African Union (AU), arrived in Juba about three weeks ago. 

Dr. Richard Lako, the incident manager for COVID-19 operations at the South Sudan health ministry, told reporters Sunday in Juba that the vaccine is no longer being used. 

"We later discovered the lifespan of this vaccine is just remaining 14 days, so immediately we started engaging because if we start them, we may not be able to finish, so the ministry is now engaging the AU and the team with regards to that effect," Lako said. 

The health ministry is working with the country's food and drug authorities to safely dispose of the doses, according to Lako.   

"Not all medicine disposal can be done easily. Vaccines are very difficult and it has to be handled differently. The drug and food authority already led the policy which, as a ministry, we have to abide by and now engage with the AU and other people to see how we deal with this," he said. 

World Health Organization officials present at the briefing declined to answer questions about the vaccine's expiration date, but India's drug regulator has allowed the vaccine — which goes by the brand name Covishield and is made by the Serum Institute of India — to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, rather than the prescribed six months. 

AstraZeneca says its product can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months. The World Health Organization website also gives the shelf life of six months for Covishield and the South Korean-made AstraZeneca shot. 

The AstraZeneca doses have been exported to dozens of countries, including South Sudan. 

Dr. Guyo Argata Guracha, the WHO emergency team leader in South Sudan, noted at Sunday's weekly COVID press briefing the vaccine's expiration date is different from the vaccine's shelf life. 

"From the WHO point of view, these are new vaccines, the expiry or it is called shelf life not even expiry date really — actually let it be shelf life, we don't have to talk about expiry date — the shelf life of this vaccine is six months from now. We cannot say it is really expired but we can talk of the shelf life, which is six months," Guracha said. 

The doses donated by MTN and the AU arrived in Juba shortly after 132,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived in the capital from the COVAX facility, a global collaboration that was formed to speed up the production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. 

Lako said the COVAX doses remain usable up to July. He said about 2,000 people — mostly health workers — have been vaccinated in South Sudan. 

The government recently lifted a partial lockdown on the country after registering a significant drop in COVID-19 cases over several weeks, but that doesn't mean the public should stop wearing face masks, Lako said. 

"The cases are coming down but COVID-19 is there, we still have some pockets of reporting areas. We have actually spotted in the last three or four weeks still places like Pariang, Pamet, Nimule, Mapuordit and Agok in particular," added Lako. 

To date, South Sudan has recorded 10,475 positive cases, 10,215 recoveries, and 114 COVID-19 deaths. - Waakhe Simon Wudu, Voice of America

Photo Anadolu Agency


The South Sudanese government on Friday confirmed that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine donated by the African Union has expired before being used.

The Manager for Expanded Program on Immunization in the Ministry of Health, George Auzenio Legge, told Anadolu Agency by phone in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Friday: “The vaccine expired on April 13 and we are not going to use it.”

The African Union, in collaboration with the MTN Group (a mobile telecommunication company), had donated 59,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to South Sudan.

The East African country received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility on March 25, 2021.

South Sudan launched its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in the capital Juba on April 6 and about 947 health workers received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

South Sudan has so far reported 10,432 infections and 114 deaths. - Benjamin Takpiny, Anadolu Agency

Photo Radio Tamazuj


The undersecretary in South Sudan's health ministry has announced that the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal State State next week.

Professor Mayen Achiek, who is on an official visit to Wau to assess the health challenges and find solutions, said health workers and people with underlying medical conditions will be inoculated as a priority.

“We are hoping by next week, the Covid-19 vaccine should arrive here for our health care workers and these are so-called frontline against Covid-19,” Achiek said.

Achiek further said the first consignment of the vaccines will also serve Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states and advised those eligible to turn up for immunization although infection rates have dropped in recent days.

“We got a good report last Monday with the honorable minister, we got a good report of Covid-19. The rate is not as alarming as it was in February and that does not mean that we are going to sleep, we have to be vigilant,” Achiek pointed out.

According to Western Bahr el Ghazal health ministry, there are about 1,000 health workers to be vaccinated, although the number of vaccines the state will receive remains unclear. 

Some workers who spoke to Radio Tamazuj on their readiness for the vaccine said the vaccine is very important because it protects them from contracting the virus.

“We are glad that the first phase arrived in Juba and some of the frontline workers, our colleagues received at the hospitals in Juba and probably next week as announced by the undersecretary, I will receive. We are ready to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Natale Masmino Uchin of Wau Teaching Hospital.

 “If the vaccine reaches here, I will be the first person to receive it because it protects people as everyone knows," Veronica Lawrance, a clinical officer at the Wau Teaching Hospital said. 

South Sudan received the first batch of its 132,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility, and another 60,000 doses donated by African Union (AU) through African Centre for Disease Control late last month. - Radio Tamazuj

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