Sun | May 9, 2021

Letter of the Day| No need to dispose of freshly expired vaccines

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2021 | 5:41 AM


I am totally opposed to the idea of disposing of the AstraZeneca vaccines as proposed by the opposition spokesman on health, Dr Morais Guy. From my experience as a public health inspector of food, drink and other edibles destined for human consumption, I wish to categorically state that to dispose of scarce vaccines solely on the basis that the vaccine expired yesterday is politically motivated and does not reflect good judgement for the following reasons:

1. Expiry date alone cannot determine the wholesomeness of a product as there is no magic in this date.

2. In the case of determining the wholesomeness of food and drink packaged, an inspector will give precedence to:

(a) whether the products look good on observation, i.e., the container shows bulging from an aerobic pathogenic growth or otherwise impaired;

(b) whether on palpation the tin or package is a flipper or Springer;

(c) whether the package sounds good on percussion;

(d) whether the contents feel good on auscultation;

(e) whether the tin or product is within the expired date.

3. It must be noted that many products spoil long before the stated expiry date based upon above criteria, while others retain their wholesomeness long pass the expiry date.

4. The only true test for a product’s wholesome status is to test the product.

Therefore, in the case of the vaccine, it’s good scientific judgement to expect a vaccine to maintain its potency after several days of the stated expiry date if there is no reason to believe that the prescribed cooling temperature was not attained and maintained at any point after production, during storage and at the time of application. A log on the cooling temperature should be kept for inspection to determine that the procedure was consistently followed, and if observation, percussion, and auscultation show no sign of abnormality, I would use the product in the shortest time possible.


A massive amount of good products have unwittingly been thrown out by observing expiry date alone. This is also true for pharmaceutical products and pesticides.

I was shocked when I attended a pharmaceutical forum in New York as a JAMPRO representative of the government of Jamaica years ago, only to observe a massive pile of myriads of pharmaceutical products openly thrown down. When I enquired why they were not dumped, I was told those products were removed for expiry date and were stored to be redated with new expiry date for resale.

Even if a good-looking vaccine was to lose some potency, it would still stimulate the human body to generate immunity and would not tarnish the faith of the recipient and generate vaccine apathy which is bad for the public. The medical profession is well aware of the placebo effect of medicine whereby a patient who is believed to have got a drug that was substituted for water manifest signs of healing based solely on the false perception he or she was given the real drug.

My recommendation is to use the vaccine in the shortest possible time if no other reason other than the expiry date presents itself upon examination.


Executive Director Jamaica Foundation for Natural Medicine