A horde of Malawians have taken to various social media platforms, especially Facebook, to vent out their discontent on why a whole Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda, would “stoop so low” to witness an incineration ceremony of expired Covid-19 vaccines, which they say, would have been overseen by a junior in her ministry.
On Wednesday, the country burned 19 160 of the 102 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, received from the African Union, whose labels indicated an expiry date of April 13.
Nyasa Times had reported earlier that some Malawians were expressing unwillingness to go for vaccination after the health ministry announced about a month ago that some vaccines had expired.
The incineration on Wednesday, said Principal Secretary for Health Dr. Charles Mwansambo, was to reassure the citizenry that they had gotten rid of the expired doses; and that they should, therefore, come enmasse for vaccination.
Malawi, according to the BBC, “is the first country to publicly do this.”
No better things to do?
Much as the burning of the expired doses was the way to go, some quarters have argued that it was unnecessary for “the whole minister to spend an entire three hours on such a ceremony.”
While most commentators attributed some “Malawian politicians’ excitement with the media,” others said the Wednesday ministerial programme was a sign that “Minister Chiponda has nothing to do” with some questioning the relevance of some cabinet ministers.
“The other day I said ministerial positions are useless, most if not all, in our context. If anything, they are tokens of appreciation to loyalists and, of course, tribal and otherwise enclaves that facilitate state capture. That we had 31 of them always shocks me. That newspapers and here we pretend to worry about their formation just ascertains our avoidance of real issues for petty nothings,” wrote Dave Namusanya, a social commentator and PhD candidate presently at the University of Abertay.
And, Hodges Zacharia—a youth activist—described the Minister’s attendance as a clear display of failure by her ministry.
“We failed to sensitize Malawians enough to avoid this wastage. And now we are busy conducting disposal of vaccines with full ministerial honours…something somewhere is wrong…
“I may also speculate that allowances will also exchange hands there. If not, then our fuel is put to waste. Further, You could have done something productive for the country for the time spent planning and execution of the plan,” wrote Zacharia.
Second AstraZeneca dose
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.
“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,” the statement read.
After launching the exercise on 11 March, 2021, the 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.
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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