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The Covid-19 Vaccine Fiasco In Malawi

July 24, 2021

By Joseph Dumbula.

Health Secretary Charles Mwansambo.jpg.

It is 8 am in the morning in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital, and one Jimmy Kondwani, has had to abscond work to look for the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which apparently, he just cannot find in hospitals, just like thousands of others.

The news now is clear that the vaccines are no longer in stock at all across hospitals.

As other nations across the world are grappling with the third wave of the Covid19 pandemic, Malawi is seeing a wave after another but of controversies to do with the pandemic.

Although the mainstay has been how decisions are made and how infamously money amounting to 6.2 billion kwacha was lost in management of the pandemic, now it is about the vaccines.

Thus far thousands of people have not yet been able to receive the second dose as the AstraZeneca doses run out in public hospitals.

A consignment of 900,000 doses the country was expected to be in Malawi at the end of May through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility but that has not been the case.

However, authorities cited the delay on recent worsening of the pandemic in India, a major manufacturer of vaccines.

Initially, Malawi received its first consignment of 360,000 doses from the COVAX facility in March, followed by 102,000 doses from the African Union, and 50,000 doses from the Indian government.

But Kondwani tells Pan African Visions that ‘’ I feel deceived. What government is doing is to make a daylight lie to us. What does this mean for our health?’’

But, according to deccanherald.com, recent studies say pushing the gap further to 12 weeks for the AstraZeneca vaccine does not affect the efficacy. Another British study has said, a single dose of the vaccine can reduce the infection rate by 65 per cent. 

Now, solace is found in the fact that the World Bank approved $30 million in additional financing to support Malawi in the acquisition and deployment of safe, affordable and effective COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccines.   

The rollout is however yet to start.

‘’This is an additional financing for the existing Malawi’s COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project bringing the World Bank contributions to the country’s health sector COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts to a total of $37 million.

The additional financing will mostly go towards the procurement and deployment of eligible COVID-19 vaccines to cover an estimated eight percent of the population by December 2023. The additional funds will accelerate the Government of Malawi’s ongoing efforts to deploy COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen the national systems for public health preparedness.’’ A statement from the World Bank reads.

This coincided with the torching of Vaccines, which is against the order that the WHO meted out to nations.

Malawi destroyed nearly 20,000 doses that had expired in April – partly because of vaccine hesitancy.  

Health Secretary Charles Mwansambo justified the decision saying authorities were forced to incinerate the doses to reassure Malawians that vaccines being used were effective.     

“The burning was of course regrettable, but we got those doses very late, they only had a very short shelf life. In fact, I am happy that we did that because we got back the confidence from the people.  That’s why we are seeing what we are seeing now.” He said.

 So, the debacle now, has to be solved as soon as possible, if the country is also to eliminate myths as Kondwani says ‘’What has happened is a recipe for more and more conspiracy theories  that are associated with the pandemic and the vaccine’’.

Currently, the Southern African nation has slightly above 2 thousand active infections, and thus far there have been over one thousand deaths with successfully recoveries at over 33 thousand.

Statistics of health also says the current positivity rates have been revolving at slightly below 15, %, a status Khumbize Chiponda, Malawi’s health minister says is a cause for worry but has bank on staunch preventive measures.

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