The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (Minsa) is applying doses of Sputnik Light and Pfizer vaccines that expired in early 2022 to the population, health sources confide to CONFIDENCIAL. The lots involved are 140721, which expired last January 01, and ACB3999, which expired on February 02, 2022.
CONFIDENCIAL corroborated the number of both expired lots in vaccination cards of Nicaraguans who received doses of these biologics in the last weeks. It also has photographs of the vials of these vaccines showing the expiration date in its possession.
The Sputnik Light and Pfizer vaccines are the ones being used by Minsa during the vaccination campaign of 2022, in which it is vaccinating the population again as if it were the first time after deciding, without evidence or scientific studies, to apply covid vaccines every year.
The total amount of expired vaccines is unknown, however, sources state that “it is a large batch”. According to the monitoring of the vaccines available in the country, Minsa has received 3.6 million doses of Sputnik Light and 1.1 million doses of Pfizer donated by the United States (26.9%) and France (73%).
Expanded vaccination with expired Pfizer vaccine
Until a few weeks ago, Pfizer vaccines were applied exclusively to pregnant women, postpartum, and infants, as well as to children over 12 years of age with risk diseases. However, from one day to the next, Minsa expanded the beneficiary population, although it did not announce it publicly.
“The order is to apply the Pfizer vaccines whenever they are available at the Center”, explained Minsa brigadistas to people who came in search of this vaccine, which is the most internationally recognized vaccine and has the approval of Health organizations, unlike Sputnik Light.
According to Minsa, up to May 5, 2022, 1,019,576 first doses of the 2022 vaccination scheme, which began last March, had been applied. It is not known how many doses per type of vaccine were administered since eight types of biologicals are available.
Dr. Argüello: “It is a deceit with criminal responsibility”
Epidemiologist Leonel Argüello, explains to CONFIDENCIAL that it is wrong to apply expired vaccines to the population and that by doing so the responsibility falls on Minsa.
“Injecting an expired medicine knowing that it is expired is an attempt against the patient, it is a deceit with criminal liability, it is unethical and against morality, it causes a false security and feeds distrust in the population,” says the doctor, who was national director of Immunizations, Epidemiology, and Hygiene of Minsa.
He also explains that “if there is a large batch of vaccines and its proper storage has been guaranteed with the temperature required by the manufacturer, a sample can be taken for each batch and the corresponding laboratory tests can be carried out and if they are successful and certified, the expiration date can be extended and the vaccine can be used as soon as possible”.
Several countries, he adds, carried out tests on AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines that were about to expire and extended the time to apply them by three months. However, “all this is certified by the corresponding organizations or institutions, and all the information is made available to the public,” the expert clarifies.
The physician indicates that although it is not advisable to apply expired vaccines in the population, it is unlikely that they will cause damage. “Possibly it will not have any protective effect that the vaccine can give, and for the effect of the following doses it is considered as not given,” he points out.
Countries in the region preferred to lose the vaccines than to apply them
In Central America, there are several countries that lost vaccines because they failed to apply them before their expiration date. In Guatemala, the Health Ombudsman’s Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman reported that more than 5.2 million vaccines expired, including Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, and Moderna, which is equivalent to a loss of more than 45 million dollars.
In Honduras, a batch of 203,480 AstraZeneca vaccines expired on May 1, 2022, according to the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS). The loss of these is equivalent to US$821,355. The IHSS director said that these vaccines expired due to a lack of planning.
In April, the Panamanian Health authorities reported that more than 100,000 Pfizer doses had expired, and although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the pharmaceutical company to extend the expiration date of its vaccine by three months, the Minister of Health, Ivette Berrios, said that “they would not risk, with this bad practice, the impeccable work they have been doing since the beginning” according to local media Radio Panama.
Currently, Nicaragua has 15.4 million vaccines against covid-19. Of these, 10.4 million doses have been applied. The breakdown of how many vaccines by type have been applied is unknown.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff