Gov’t faces looming AstraZeneca vaccines’ expiry as province cites delayed DOH memo

March 16, 2021 - 3:37 PM
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte inspects one of the crates containing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City on March 4, 2021. (Presidential photo/King Rodriguez)

(Updated March 21, 12:02 p.m.) Local government units received requirements needed for the vaccination program from the national government too close to the expiration date.

Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero, expressed this concern amid the looming expiration of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, citing it is on May 21.

“This could really be done had DOH issued their Memo imposing several requirements before the roll-out of the vaccines in Provinces EARLIER and had enough people to validate,” Escudero tweeted on March 15..

“The May 21, 2021 expiration means that the 1st dose must be administered before March 19, 2021,” he added.

Escudero attached a screenshot of a report about the DOH’s response to concerns on AstreZeneca vaccine’s short life span.

In a briefing on Friday, March 12, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire assured the public that vaccines’ expiration dates, including the vials from the United Kingdom, had already been streamlined into their vaccination plan.

“Yung dumating po sa atin ‘yan po ang expiry sa end ng May,” she said.

“Pero nakaayos ang strategies natin because ang 2nd dose po n’yan you can give from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. So pasok na pasok ang ating schedule at aabot naman sa lahat ang pagbabakuna,” she added.

The health official also pointed out that this expiry date does not apply to AstraZeneca only.

“Wala pong bakunang dinevelop ngayon under the emergency use authority all over the world na may mahabang expiry date,” Vergeire said.

She said that 114,615 have already been vaccinated or 11.2% of the over one million health workers left on the government’s priority list have been inoculated as of Friday.

Of these, 12,788 took AstraZeneca jabs and the rest of the 101,827 received Sinovac.

AstraZeneca’s shelf life

Under the DOH’s memorandum 2021-0123, a vial of AstraZeneca has a shelf life of six months if unopened.

However, once opened, it can only last until six hours even when stored in adjusted room temperatures.

Part of the memo read:

“After first opening, chemical and physical in-use stability has been demonstrated from the time of vial puncture to administration for no more than:

  • Six hours at room temperature, up to 30°C, or
  • 48 hours in a refrigerator (2 to 8°C). The vial can be re-refrigerated, but the cumulative storage time at room temperature must not exceed 6 hours, and the total cumulative storage time must not exceed 48 hours.”

AstraZeneca should also be administered in two doses, similar to other COVID-19 vaccines. However, there’s an interval in-between doses.

“The second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is recommended to be administered 4 to 12 weeks from the date of the first dose,” read the DOH memo.

This was also stated in the guidelines provided by the Europe Medical Agency, wherein:

“The COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination course consists of two separate doses of 0.5 ml each. The second dose should be administered between 4 and 12 weeks (28 to 84 days) after the first dose,” read the guidelines from EMA.

The EMA explained that the interval allows the vaccine to take effect.

“Protection starts from approximately 3 weeks after the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. Individuals may not be fully protected until 15 days after the second dose is administered,” the EMA said.

So far, only the vaccine from drug maker Johnson & Johnson does not require booster or is only single shot.

READ: Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine effective, safe —US FDA staff

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a briefing on Monday that the shipment of 979,200 vials for the second dose of AstraZeneca from the Covax facility is scheduled to arrive on March 22 or first week of April.

The government earlier announced that 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines would arrive for the first-shot inoculation.

READ: Sounds like ‘Rent’ song: Skepticism over 525,600 AstraZeneca doses to arrive in Philippines

The first shipment of 487,2020 doses of AstraZeneca arrived last March 4 while the remaining 38,400 doses arrived March 7.

The inoculation of the Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine began last March 9.

Meanwhile, the 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac arrived February 28, with the vaccination program kicking off at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital March 1.

Editor’s Note: The latest update revises the headline to match the content more accurately.