After overcoming a spike in cases in January, Malawi is “hopeful” of continued improvement as first consignment of 360 000 doses of AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility arrived in the country on Friday afternoon , ready for the first jabs after five days.
The Emirates Cargo plane carrying Malawi’s first batches of AstraZeneca vaccine touched down at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe at exactly 4pm.
Government officials, diplomats and other officials were at the airport to receive the consignment.
Minister of Health Khumbidze Chiponda said the rapid start of immunisation against Covid-19 would not mean the end of the pandemic was in sight but said the jabs will give the country a “window of hope” to ease the devastating impact of the pandemic.
She said the vaccine offers protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, further calling for intensive civic education to demystify myths surrounding the vaccine.
Chiponda said it was “vitally important” that Malawians understood the vaccine developed by British-Swede drug maker AstraZeneca was safe.
“There should be no doubt whatever that this is a very safe and highly effective coronavirus vaccine,” she said.
The minister said the vaccines will be delivered for storage to prepare for immediate distribution. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 C, making it easier to handle, but is less effective at around 70%.
Chiponda said government will first target frontline health workers as they are at high risk of getting the infection while taking care of patients and suspected cases.
Over 1 500 health workers have been infected with Covid-19 since the pandemic was first registered in the country in April 2020.
Said Chiponda: “It is important that all health workers should be vaccinated to ensure that they are protected. The vaccine will help protect them from Covid-19 infection.
“Apart from the frontline health workers, the first phase will also target other social workers, those that due to nature of their job interact with a lot of people. Getting vaccinated is one of the many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.”
The minister said the vaccine will also help protect the elderly and people with pre-existing chronic condition from becoming severely ill even if they acquired the disease.
Public health experts say some jabs should also be prioritised to businesses event at a cost and their staff as entrepreneurs have to travel regularly for business and have to have a Covid-19 vaccine passport or certificate.
“By charging businesses , anyone who can afford will bring extra income for the government to use the same money to buy more vaccine,” observed one health expert.
In a Covid-19 weekly epidemiology report issued on Wednesday, the Public Health Institute of Malawi under the Ministry of Health said besides the initial 360 000 doses, an additional 99 833 doses from the African Union and 50 000 more from the Government of India are also expected in the country soon.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said government was yet to decide on how many people from the targeted groups will have to get the jab first.
He said: “ For AstraZeneca, you get the vaccine two times, so if someone gets it now, they will be vaccinated again after three months. It has not been decided yet on how many people will get the vaccine in each of the categories.
“People should not worry because more vaccines are coming. We need to understand that transportation is a challenge, even production because the demand is high. But surely, we will get all the vaccines required.”
Last weekend , Malawi received 360 000 syringes and 3 625 safety boxes to be used for Covid-19 vaccinations. Administration of the vaccines is expected to start on March 15 2021, according to Mithi.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :