Peru urges vaccine sellers to extend expiration dates to cut risk of losses

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a woman during an initiative to vaccinate people over 12 years old, in Lima, Peru December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s Health Minister Hernando Cevallos has called on COVID-19 vaccine companies to extend expiration dates past the current three months to reduce the risk of losing doses.

Cevallos said in a telephone interview on Saturday that the government had asked one of the laboratories that supplies vaccines to Peru to deliver them with expirations of up to six months. But he said the laboratory refused, saying that the expiration dates were pre-set.

The minister declined to specify the name of the laboratory, citing the “confidentiality” of the purchase agreements.

Peru, with one of the highest per capita COVID-19 mortality rates in the world, has signed vaccine contracts with China’s Sinopharm, the U.S. companies Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc and UK-based AstraZeneca Plc.

“The situation that the affected countries are facing must be understood, particularly in Latin America, due to the economic difficulties we’re going through,” Cevallos said.

Peru is facing a third wave of the virus triggered by the Omicron variant. The country has vaccinated just over 80% of its target population with two doses against COVID-19 and is in the middle of a its booster vaccination campaign.

The government expects to start vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 next week.

“There are no penalties if there is any delay in the arrival of the vaccines. Nor is there any flexibility in expiration dates after they have entered the country,” Cevallos said. “Not only do you have to consider the date it is produced, but also take into account the date when it arrives in the country.”

“Some of the batches of vaccines have not arrived on time.”

COVID-19 cases have totaled almost 2.5 million in Peru, causing 203,302 deaths. Peru has a population of about 33 million.

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