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3.8 million Malawians could get Covid vaccine

Charles Mwansambo

At least 3.8 million Malawians, or about 20 percent of the country’s population, are earmarked for Covid-19 vaccination set to be administered in the first half of 2021, Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo has disclosed.

Mwansambo said Malawi, which is in preparatory stages of the vaccine, has applied for support under the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility, which has procured the vaccine.

He said the vaccination would target frontline health workers, those with diabetes, lung and heart conditions as well as those aged 65 years and above.

He further said there were three candidates of vaccines that Malawi was looking at, which are Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.

He said two vaccines— the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as well as Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine—needed more investments in the cold chain while the AstraZeneca one could be stored at between two and eight degrees Celsius and cost less than the other two.

“Looking at the three vaccines, we may likely go for the AstraZeneca one. But, of course, we need to prepare for it so we, as a country, already have the expanded programme of immunisation and there is a sub-technical working group on the introduction of new vaccines. So we have not taken up new structures. We are using the already existing structures.

“We have reinforced the group by bringing in a representative from the Treasury and the World Bank because we will need some form of funding at some point,” Mwansambo said.

He said the Malawi Immunisatisation Technical Advisory Group was advising government officials on how to proceed with every stage.

On December 18 this year, Covax—the global initiative that promotes rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level—announced that it had arrangements in place to access nearly two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine candidates, on behalf of 190 participating economies.

For the vast majority of these deals, Covax has guaranteed access to a portion of the first wave of production, followed by volume scales as further supply becomes available.

In an announcement posted on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, Covax said the arrangements would enable all participating economies to have access to doses in the first half of 2021, with first deliveries anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2021 – contingent upon regulatory approvals and countries’ readiness for delivery.

WHO Director- General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the arrival of vaccines was giving everyone across the world a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

“But we will only truly end the pandemic if we end it everywhere at the same time, which means it’s essential to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries. And we must remember that vaccines will complement, but not replace, the many other tools we have in our toolbox to stop transmission and save lives. We must continue to use all of them,” Ghebreyesus said.

As of Tuesday evening, Malawi had cumulatively recorded a total of 6,388 Covid-19 cases, of which 188 had died and 5,688 had recovered.

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