Malawi will receive the first consignment of AstraZeneca vaccine today, with Ministry of Health (MoH) officials indicating that it will take them five days to distribute vaccine doses across the country in readiness for vaccination roll-out campaign.
The arrival of 360,000 doses follows the coming in of 360,000 syringes and 3,625 safety boxes that arrived in the country five days ago.
In early February, President Lazarus Chakwera announced that Malawi had secured AstraZeneca vaccine to offer recipients immunity against coronavirus.
At least 3.8 million Malawians, starting with frontline healthcare workers, are earmarked for the vaccine.
Malawi secured AstraZeneca through the Covid Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, which is a mechanism that supports access to safe and effective vaccines for low-and-middle income countries.
Meanwhile, spokesperson Joshua Malango told The Daily Times that the ministry would need approximately five days to distribute the vaccine across the country through a national immunisation process.
“Vaccine arrives on the 5th [today] and we [Ministry of Health] will need approximately five days to distribute the vaccines across all districts in the country but, tentatively, a week after arrival.
“The rollout of the vaccine will start with priority groups regardless of location [urban or rural areas]. The ministry will lead the [immunisation] process with partners through EPI [Expanded Programme on Immunisation],” Malango said.
He added that the total operational budget for the vaccine is $1.6 million for two years, excluding the procurement of extra doses for close to 7.8 million people in Malawi.
MoH Principal Secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo recently said Malawi settled for AstraZeneca because it could be stored in a condition of between two and eight degrees Celsius.
“Through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, we have fridges across the country. Some of these fridges use gas or paraffin, especially where there is no electricity. Through the programme, we are assessing our cold chain capacity to see how many vaccines we can hold and make improvements accordingly,” he said.
However, Malango said the vaccine had taken sometime to arrive in the country due to the high demand for Covid vaccines in the world.
Meanwhile, other countries in Africa have started administering Covid vaccines, with Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire becoming the latest states to start administering the same, through the Covax Facility.
Countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe started administering Covid vaccines earlier.