In a 30-minute process, officials destroyed thousands of Covid-19 vaccines, leaving behind just broken pieces of the vials holding the liquid.
Uptake of the vaccine in Malawi has been low and health workers hope the move will increase public confidence.
Malawi’s health ministry said the country had administered 335,232 vaccine doses as of May 18, and recorded 34,231 COVID infections and 1,153 deaths.
In addition to the 102,000 from the African Union, it has received 300,000 doses under the Covax vaccine-sharing facility and 50,000 sourced direct from India.
A batch of 102,000 vaccines arrived on March 26, under an initiative by the AU and WHO, and they expired on April 13, leaving less than three weeks for them to be used. The country managed to deploy about 80 percent of them by that time.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), part of the AU, told a news conference late last month that the shots could be used until July 13, based on a further analysis conducted by manufacturers the Serum Institute of India (SII).
He and the WHO also urged African countries not to waste vaccines donated to them.
“We are destroying them because, as government policy… no expired vaccine has ever been used,” said Health Minister Khumbize Chaponda, at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the administrative capital Lilongwe.
She then threw the shots, which were wrapped in red plastic bags, into an incinerator, causing a cloud of dark smoke to billow from its chimney.
“On behalf of the government I assure all Malawians that no one will be given an expired COVID vaccine,” she said.
South Sudan has set aside 59,000 doses supplied by the AU and is not using them because of the same expiration issue.
African countries have struggled to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines to roll out mass immunisation. Many rely on handouts from global vaccine scheme COVAX, which is co-led by the WHO and partners including the Gavi vaccines alliance.