BRASILIA (Reuters) -Municipalities across Brazil on Friday denied a newspaper report that said health ministry data showed cities administered at least 26,000 expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shots.
The southern city of Maringá, cited in the Folha de S.Paulo story as being the municipality to have used the most expired shots (over 3,500), denied the allegation, saying the doses only appeared to have expired on public databases due to a delay in the registration of new data in the Health Ministry system.
“There were no expired vaccine doses in Maringá, but there was an error in the system of (public health network) SUS,” said the city’s Health Secretary Marcelo Puzzi in a statement. Other cities blamed the confusion on the same data issue.
Local governments for the cities of São Paulo, Juiz de Fora and Belo Horizonte, which were also mentioned in the Folha story, issued statements denying having given out-of-date shots.
Brazil’s vaccine rollout has faced widespread criticism. The government was slow to buy vaccines, and is now dealing with an alleged corruption scandal surrounding its procurement efforts.
Expired vaccine doses can be less effective. In Africa, a number of countries have found themselves with batches that have passed their shelf life sparking a debate over extending expiry dates. In May, Malawi destroyed nearly 20,000 doses that had expired.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has so far declined to take a vaccine and has sowed doubts about inoculations, pushed unproven miracle cures and underplayed the severity of a pandemic that has killed over a half a million Brazilians.
According to the report, the expired vaccines came from batches imported from India by the public Fiocruz biomedical institute, or acquired through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Neither the Health Ministry, nor PAHO immediately responded to requests for comment. The Serum Institute of India, which made the shots, also did not immediately reply. Fiocruz said it did not produce any expired shots.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of the two dominant COVID-19 shots in Brazil, alongside China’s CoronaVac.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; additional reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; writing by Pedro Fonseca and Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Aurora Ellis and David Gregorio)