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National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Expiry extension of Covid-19 vaccines under study

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The government, along with vaccine manufacturers, is reevaluating all coronavirus jabs that have already expired or nearing expiration for possible shelf-life extension, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said in a report by Philippine News Agency.

In an interview, Galvez said the NTF and the Department of Health (DOH) are doing their best to make sure that no coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines would be wasted due to expiration.

The vaccine czar recalled that the country was earlier compelled to accept vaccines with an expiration date of about one to two months, due to the global shortage of jab supplies.

However, Galvez said the government is already in talks with various pharmaceutical companies and the COVAX Facility to provide the country with vaccines that have a shelf-life of four months and beyond.

"'Wag kayong mag-alala (Don't worry), we will always ensure that na yung tinuturok natin (that the vaccine we administer) is very safe and within the shelf-life that has been regulated by the manufacturers and also the regulatory body," he said. "We will make sure that those vaccines nearing expiry dates are being quarantined for reevaluation.”

Citing an example, Galvez said the shelf-life of about 1.2 million Pfizer vaccines delivered last October and were due to expire in November, have been extended until February next year after a series of evaluations.

"Based doon sa kanilang evaluation, it can be extended yung shelf-life (Based on their evaluation, the shelf-life could be extended)," he said.

Galvez said even other countries are doing the same.

"They are evaluating the vials and they found out that it's still safe to use," he said.

In a separate interview, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje noted that they have not received any report on "mishandled" coronavirus jabs.

"Ni-request natin iyong ating mga probinsiya, mga munisipyo na magdala ng expired vaccine as of November 30 sa ating mga regional offices para i-quarantine iyan, tapos titingnan natin baka puwede pang magamit, aaralin iyong shelf life (We have requested our provinces, municipalities to bring the expired vaccines as of November 30 to our regional office for quarantine. We will see if we could still use them. We will study their shelf-life)," said Cabotaje, who also chairs the National Vaccine Operations Center (NVOC).

She said they were still finalizing the numbers of AstraZeneca vaccines that expired last Tuesday.

"We will see what we can do with the remaining vaccines that were supposed to expire on November 30. Mostly, that's AstraZeneca," she added.

Cabotaje also some vaccines in the stockpile are due to expire this month and January next year.

"Gagawin natin lahat silang first doses. Idi-distribute natin sa fast-consuming areas, tapos ide-deploy natin nang mas kakaunti sa mas maraming lugar para ito ay mai-jab (We will use all of these as first doses. We will distribute them to fast-consuming areas and we will deploy them to more areas so they could be administered)," she said.

The World Health Organization has previously noted that several countries have been facing challenges due to the short shelf-life of Covid-19 vaccines. 

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