Malawi ready for COVID-19 second phase vaccination on Thursday

Government has said it is prepared for the administration of the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine which the Ministry of Health (MoH) had already announced—over a month ago—would begin on Thursday June 3, 2021.

MoH spokesman, Joshua Malango, assured the citizenry that there would be “adequate quantities of vaccines” despite admitting that other consignments of vaccines had not yet arrived in the country.

Dr Charles Mwansambo

Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) president in the country, Dr. Victor Mithi, had expressed concern that the delay in the arrival of the consignments would hamper the administration of the second phase.

‘Adequate quantities’

But Malango said there was no need for alarm.

He said: “I will advise on the quantities arriving next week but the country has, and will have, adequate quantities of vaccines. We are going back to the cycle we started with; healthcare workers, essential service providers, the elderly, those with underlying co-morbidities and then the rest of the population.”

Meanwhile, Maziko Matemba, a health rights activist has advised that it is imperative that those that already got the first dose be the first for the second dose.

According to Matemba, “government should not only ensure that vaccines are available but raise awareness about availability of the vaccines.”

‘11 million targeted’

So far, Malawi has vaccinated 345,000 people.

The government is targeting 11 million Malawians, after it started vaccine administration on March 11 2021, when President Lazarus Chakwera was vaccinated in Zomba while Vice- President Saulos Chilima got his jab in Mzuzu City on the same day.

The country first received 512,000 doses of the vaccine meant for the first dose, while another batch comprising 900,000 doses from Covid Vaccine Access (Covax) Facility were expected to start arriving by May end.

Malawi first received a batch of 360,000 doses of Covid vaccine early March under the Covax programme. A few weeks later, Malawi received other allotments of 50,000 doses from India and 102,000 doses from the African Union (AU).

Out of the 102,000 doses from AU, 16, 440 doses of the vaccine expired and were destroyed.

Ungrounded Myths

Malawi has received more than 500 000 shots of the AstraZeneca vaccines from AU, Covax and the Indian government.

However, only about 300 000—just about over 1% of Malawi’s population—have received the first phase of the vaccine so far as most of them continue to remain hesitant.

Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) who have talked to Nyasa Times say most people think that the vaccine is aimed at halving the world’s population and refer to the conspiracy theories of the New World Order.

“They even think that we are giving them fake vaccines. They think they are getting less effective versions as compared to those that people of higher classes are getting,” a health surveillance assistant said.

Others, he said, find it “nonsensical” for them to go for the vaccine arguing what is the need if they will continue wearing masks.

President Chakwera has, nevertheless, repeatedly asked the citizenry to go for the vaccine further assuring that he himself got one that is not different from what everyone else is getting.

Last month it was feared that over 16 000 expired AstraZeneca Covid-19 doses that had been received would be destroyed.

Optimism for second dose

But the Ministry of Health said they would begin administering the second dose of the vaccine beginning next month to comply with WHO’s recent evidence that the vaccine remains a two dose and only more effective if the interval is put at a minimum of 12 weeks.

The statement, dated May 3, 2021 and signed by MoH principal secretary Charles Mwansambo, further said that the ability of the vaccine to protect one from being hospitalized or have a severe Covid-19 disease rises up to more than 80% if the second dose is given at not less than 12 weeks from the first dose.

Read part of the statement: “It is against this available evidence that the Ministry of Health informs health workers and the general public that administration of our second dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine will start on 3rd June 2021.”

After launching the exercise on 11 March, 2021, government was expected to launch the second exercise at the end of May.

Mwansambo said he was “optimistic” that people would turn up for the vaccine, and urged those that had gotten the jab to encourage others.

More awareness

Following the announcement, some health rights campaigners in the country have urged authorities to start raising more awareness on the second dose.

Health expert, George Jobe, of Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) has said government, non-governmental organisations and the corporate world “must work hand in hand and invest massively in awareness campaigns.”

He said it was imperative that the awareness campaigns emphasize to people that they “should follow expert advice, and not listen to rumours.”

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