Shocked by expiry date on vaccine, woman refuses booster shot for her domestic help

File photo of a nurse carrying out vaccination.

By Weekly Echo Reporter

PETALING JAYA, Feb 24 – “How is the shelf life for vaccines extended?” This was the question a woman posed at a vaccination centre (PPV) after discovering that the vaccine intended for her domestic help had expired.

Speaking to Weekly Echo on the condition of annonymity, Anne (nor her real name) related her experience at the PPV on Wednesday.

“I took my helper to get her booster shot at a reputable PPV in Selangor. Heeding the Health Minister’s advise to boost up, I called up a few clinics and hospitals to check which one had Sinovac and headed over there.

“The place was empty, unlike the early days of the vaccination drive where people made beelines, drove out in throngs to the huge PPVs. I was happy. Until I reached the vaccination station.”

Anne said she enquired on the expiry date of the vaccine as advised by some friends, and was shocked to learn that the Sinovac vaccine had expired on January 31st.

“But what was more shocking was the information shared by the PPV staff: ‘Should be ok to take lah. So many have taken and none reported any side effects. KKM approved for this vaccine shelf life to be extended till 31 July 2022, but it’s up to you.”’

In November last year, the Ministry of Health did announce that it had approved a three-month shelf-life extension for the comirnaty-Covid-19 vaccines and six months for CoronaVac.

“Many of us are still unaware of this and many questions are not addressed” Anne said.

She said she made a few calls to some doctor friends for advise before finally declining to let her domestic help get the vaccine.

“I was uneasy with the said extension of use of a vaccine that had gone past its good date, not to mention only a couple of years old now.

“As these vaccines are still new, perhaps our Minister of Health can explain,” she said, wanting to know if this was the case with all the vaccines in Malaysia.

“Are they all extended past their expiry date? How do they determine how far can the expiry date be stretched to?

“Are the vaccines for children handled in the same manner?,” the mother of two children also wanted to know.

Along with these questions, Anne also wanted to know more details of the effects of expired vaccines.

  1. What are the side effects to look out for from being inoculated with an expired vaccine?
  2. Would their side-effects be the same as those from the first 2 shots that were within the good date?
  3. Where is the data on the usage of expired vaccines?
  4. Has it been shared with the people of our country?
  5. Has it been shared with various media outlets that the expired Sinovac Vaccine can still be used?
  6. Has the effect of using expired vaccines been advised to the masses?
  7. Will people be told that they are being innoculated with a past good date vaccine? Or do they have to ask of the expiry date?
  8. What do the manufacturers advise on the usage of such vaccines?

Anne said she was also disappointed with another piece of information a friend shared with her on vaccines.

According to the friend, the booster shots offered at a popular local network of clinic at the price of RM99 had expiry dates going past this year, almost making her wonder why the difference.

Meanwhile, Weekly Echo made several calls to the network of clinics and confirmed that the booster shot offered for RM99 at the clinics all had expiry dates up till 2023.

One clinic said the expiry date was Feb 28, 2022 while another said the expiry date of the vials in their possession were up till June 16, 2023.

“Although vaccines are supposed to be free, I have decided to pay for it as I did not want to take the chance. Whether they are domestic helpers, construction workers or just any other other blue collared worker, expired vaccines are still risky to me,” Anne said.

Meanwhile, this is what the US health agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to say about a medicine.

“If a drug has degraded, it might not provide the patient with the intended benefit because it has a lower strength than intended. In addition, when a drug degrades it may yield toxic compounds that could cause consumers to experience unintended side effects. Patients with serious and life-threatening diseases may be particularly vulnerable to potential risks from drugs that have not been stored properly.