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Indonesia seeks longer shelf life donations as 19 million COVID-19 shots expired

JAKARTA (CNA) – Nineteen million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia’s national stockpile have expired this year and 1.5 million more are set to expire next month, as donated shots arrive with a short shelf life, a health official said on Wednesday.

Indonesia and many other developing nations are ramping up their vaccination campaign, aided by donations from wealthy countries, but they have been calling for donations with a longer shelf life.

Lucia Rizka Andalusia, a senior health ministry official, told a parliamentary hearing that of the 19.3 million doses that expired between January and March, 97 per cent were donated.

Most of the expired doses were AstraZeneca’s shot, and they also included Moderna’s, she said.

Indonesia receives donations from the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme and countries such as Australia and the United States. Foreign Ministry official I Gede Ngurah Swajaya told the same hearing the country will stop receiving donations until April and tell donating countries that the vaccines donated must carry at least two-thirds of the shelf life.

The GAVI vaccine alliance, which runs COVAX with the World Health Organization, told Reuters that COVAX “only ships doses that have been accepted by countries with full knowledge of vaccine type, estimated shipment plan and vaccine shelf life”. Indonesia’s food and drug agency said earlier this month that it extended the expiry dates of several vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s and Sinovac’s, after reviewing new available data about their efficacy.

Indonesia would prioritise the distribution of vaccines nearing expiry, Health Ministry official Rizka said.

Poorer nations rejected more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by COVAX in December, mainly because of a rapidly approaching expiry date, a UNICEF official said.