Gov't seeks funds to destroy expired COVID-19 vaccines

The National Medical Stores (NMS) is facing a significant challenge with a stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines that are no longer in demand, resulting in a loss of Shs400 billion. This situation requires funds for disposal. Dr. Francis Ayume, chairperson of the Health Committee, stated that by December 2023, 10 million COVID-19 vaccines had expired due to low demand, necessitating funds for their incineration.

Dr. Ayume emphasized the need for funds for the retrieval and incineration of these expired vaccines and related supplies. However, the exact amount required for incineration was not specified. He mentioned that the National Drug Authority is responsible for billing NMS for the destruction of vaccines. The vaccines were procured during the COVID-19 pandemic that lasted from January 2020 to 2022.

An audit report in January revealed that over 5.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, purchased through a World Bank loan, had expired. The last World Bank funding for vaccines was in December 2021, totaling $180 million. The declining demand for vaccines was cited as the main reason for the stockpileup and expiry. Furthermore, resistance to COVID-19 vaccines from anti-vaxxers globally contributed to the situation.

Dr. Ayume highlighted the persistent underfunding of NMS, with a current funding gap of Shs232.54 billion, worsened by the withdrawal of external support. Some donors withdrew funding last year over Uganda's controversial anti-gay law, affecting critical sectors like health, including funding for malaria, tuberculosis, and immunization.

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