Presidential taskforce on CoVID-19 endorses Pfeizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12+ year olds

Presidential taskforce on CoVID-19 has endorsed use of Pfeizer-BioNTech vaccine that covers for people as young as 12 years old and above.

A statement from the taskforce’s chairperson, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda on Sunday, stressing that this extension is only for Pfeizer-BioNTech vaccine “for the time being, until further expert advice is available and announced regarding other vaccines”.

The eligibility of the other vaccines available — AstraZeneca (that require two doses after 14 weeks from the first jab) and the once off Johnson and Johnson — is for those aged 18 years and above.

“Let me call upon all those that are eligible to access these services as soon as they are available to you,” Kandodo Khumbize said in her statement on the situation of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country and review of rules and guidelines in the context of evolving regional and global.

She further said the Ministry of Health will soon publish guidelines on the use of Pfeizer-BioNTech CoVID-19 vaccine for those aged 12 years and over.

She reiterated that the positive uptake of the vaccines has demonstrated — “even in our own country — that the vaccine has been reducing the risk of developing severe disease, risk of hospitalization and deaths due to CoVID-19 while the other preventive measures help to prevent from contracting or passing on the virus, including the new variant”.

“We have adequate stocks of COVID-19 vaccines in all our public, CHAM and ad hoc vaccination sites, and more are being procured,” she said, while urging “all that are eligible go and get vaccinated before another wave comes upon us”.

Last week, Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) issued an alert that following events in other parts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, especially South Africa and Botswana, Blantyre residents are encouraged to be on high alert for an impending CoVID-19 fourth wave.

Issued by the DHO’s Director of Health and Social Services, Dr. Gift Kawalazira on Friday, November 26), the statement alerts the general public that “from past experience, there is usually a four-week window period from the time South Africa records an increase in numbers of CoVID-19 cases to the time Malawi follows suit with Blantyre being the hardest hit”.

“Blantyre residents are further reminded that the only effective way to protect oneself from CoViD-19 related serious illness or death is to get fully vaccinated against the disease.

“It is for this reason that Blantyre DHO would like to encourage all residents of 18 years and above that are not yet vaccinated to use the four week window period to get themselves vaccinated.”

Dr. Kawalazira stressed that getting fully vaccinated gives people bodies time to build immunity against the CoVID-19 virus before it is too late while encouraging those that are due for their second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine to go for it.

So far, as of Sunday, November 28, a total of 1,407,233 vaccine doses have been administered in the country with cumulative figure of 807,376 having received their first dose of AstraZeneca and 325,364 their second jab while 274,493 have received Johnson and Johnson.

Over the past 24 hours of Sunday, 2,072 and 238 people have received first dose and second of AstraZeneca vaccine respectively whilst 168 received Johnson and Johnson — giving a cumulative figure of 599,857 being fully vaccinated.

As of Sunday, eight new CoVID-19 cases were recorded that include two new recoveries and one new related death, who was not vaccinated. All new cases are locally transmitted — six from Mangochi, one each from Lilongwe and Ntcheu Districts.

Cumulatively, Malawi has recorded 61,897 cases including 2,305 deaths at case fatality rate of 3.72%). Of these cases, 2,700 are imported infections and 59,197 are locally transmitted.

Cumulatively, 58,765 cases have now recovered at rate of 95% while 232 were lost to follow-up — bringing the total number of active cases to 595.

There were no new admissions and no new discharges in the treatment units in the past 24 hours of Sunday currently, two active cases are hospitalised, one each in Blantyre and Mzimba North districts.

Kandodo Chiponda also informed the public that there is a new CoVID-19 strain circulating in some countries in the world which the World Health Organisation has identified as a variant of concern and given the name Omicron.

“Early evidence from South Africa suggests Omicron may be more transmissible, however research is still in progress,” she said. “Emergence of new variants such as Omicron underlines why it is so important that we continue practising the required preventive measures.

“This particular strain is still in its infancy stage and as with any emerging developments to do with CoVID-19, we are closely watching and monitoring the evidence and the countries responses.

“The Government of Malawi will keep on advising the general public on any potential impact this new variant might cause. But learning from previous experience we are confident that we as a nation remain in a good position to minimise any potential negative impact provided everyone follows the recommended preventive measures.”

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