By MARK LORENZANA
Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, on Saturday, Sept. 25, reported that 5.4 million covid-19 vaccines had expired in Mexico and are set to be thrown away.
Of the total wasted vaccines, 3.4 million are of the AstraZeneca brand, donated by the U.S. government, and stored in a warehouse of the Biological and Reagent Laboratories of Mexico (Birmex) in Cuautitlán Izcalli, in the State of Mexico (EdoMéx). The rest are 1.6 million expired Sputnik V vaccines, which were purchased by the Mexican government, and kept at the National Institute of Virology.
This is not the first time that Birmex, a state-run drug distributor, has figured in a controversy involving the distribution of medicines. In August of this year, Birmex admitted that it has not been able to run the government’s medicine-distribution program due to lack of resources.
Both the AztraZeneca and Sputnik V covid-19 vaccine batches reportedly expired in June and must be disposed of. According to the Vaccination Manual of the Government of Mexico, expired vaccines “must be thrown down the drain, and their bottles must be rendered unusable.”
Mexico’s Federal Secretariat of Public Health (SSA), in an official statement, acknowledged the expired vaccines, but likewise admitted that an additional 856,191 doses were wasted due to “operational losses, cold accidents or expiration.”
“Like any vaccination program, and given the logistical complexity involved in implementing immunization, some biologicals suffer cold network accidents or are wasted during the day, due to electrical failures, human errors or natural disasters, among other causes,” read the SSA statement.
In particular, the vaccines that have been received as donations, the SSA pointed out, generally have a short shelf life or expiration, further complicating operations and logistics.
Meanwhile, legislators from the Mexican Chamber of Deputies Health Commission warned that it is an act of criminal negligence to allow more than 5 million vaccines to expire.
For his part, Éctor Jaime Ramírez, a deputy from the conservative National Action Party (PAN), said that not only does he believe that allowing millions of vaccines to expire constitutes criminal negligence, but that health authorities ignored repeated warnings from deputies. He pointed out that, for months, the Chamber of Deputies has been sounding the alarm that vaccines were about to expire, and that they should be used as soon as possible.
“We have been warning and reminding them since they ‘extended the deadline’ for the expiration date of the vaccines, and even then they were not able to protect Mexican families,” said Ramírez.