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Chiefs want mandatory Covid-19 vaccine

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KAWINGA—Issues of health have no freedom

Some traditional leaders in the country have urged authorities to find means of making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for Malawians as a way of ensuring that the country is not affected further by the effects of the pandemic.

In an interview on the sidelines of an orientation workshop for traditional leaders, ward councillors and faith-based leaders which was organised by Red Cross Malawi in Machinga District, Paramount Chief Kawinga said it is unfortunate that government has given Malawians unnecessary freedom to decide whether to take the Covid-19 jab.

Kawinga explained that matters of health cannot be debated such that all people need to make sure that they are following medical recommendations to ensure that they are creating a safe environment for them and others.

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“There is confusion on messages which we are giving to people regarding the Covid-19 Vaccine. They [Government] are telling us to encourage people to be vaccinated, yet they are also telling the same people through radios that the vaccine is not compulsory. This will not help. Issues of health have no freedom as is the case with the ongoing Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.

Kawinga added that the development could derail the drive to have more people vaccinated.

“At the moment, people who were vaccinated are being laughed at in our localities because authorities have chosen to treat this important matter lightly. Government needs to put it on record that all Malawians living in the country should go and get the Jab without any choice,” he said.

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Traditional Authority Nkoola also chipped in, pointing out that currently, people in most rural parts of the country are being affected economically by the effects of the Covid-19 such that opening the country after increasing the number of vaccinated people can help to ease these challenges.

“We have seen that elsewhere, life has returned to normal because the government in those countries forced people to get the vaccine. This can work for Malawi if a lot of people are being vaccinated. We need to have our lives back to normal because we have seen that the vaccine is safe,’ he said.

In an earlier interview, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda had emphasised that though the Covid-19 jab was voluntary, it is vital for every Malawian to receive the jab to protect one’s life and that of loved ones.

Speaking to Malawi News, health rights activist Maziko Matemba also differed with the chiefs, saying forcing people to be vaccinated is against their right.

Matemba said Malawi is a democratic State therefore making the jab mandatory can set a bad precedent.

He however said there are other ways which can help ensure that a lot of Malawians receive the jab.

“At the moment, it seems the fight has been left to only a few people. If we take everybody on board, we can manage to increase to number of people that are being vaccinated. It seems our strategies as a country have not been well coordinated,” he said.

Matemba added that Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) have not been utilised by the Ministry of Health to reduce the impact of Covid-19 pandemic in rural areas.

“Most local people trust HSAs because they live with them such that if we can support them to carry the vaccine messages to the local people, we can register tremendous results. We have seen with other diseases in the past in which people gladly accepted the treatment and vaccine through the use of HSAs,” he said.

Recently, the Ministry of Health indicated that it will soon roll out mobile Covid-19 vaccine distribution in most rural parts of the country.

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