The country is expected to experience another Covid vaccine stock-out, less than a week after receiving 192,000 doses of Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine.
In fact, in cities such as Zomba, vaccine doses have run out in most vaccination centres.
This sharply contrasts the situation during the first phase of vaccination, which President Lazarus Chakwera launched in Zomba City on March 11 this year, followed by his deputy Saulos Chilima, who got inoculated in Mzuzu later on the same day.
It took months to finish close to 502,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with a further 19,610 doses being destroyed in Lilongwe on May 19 this year.
How things change! By close of business Thursday, Zomba had no single dose of Covid vaccines.
“The centre which had 30 doses [of Covid vaccine] available today [Thursday] morning had delayed in mobilising community members; otherwise, we do not have even a single dose left in Zomba,” said Zomba District Health Office spokesperson Arnold Mdalira.
In Blantyre, as of Thursday morning, Covid vaccine doses were running out fast.
The Daily Times gathered that vaccine doses had run out in 20 out of 34 centres earmarked as vaccination sites in Blantyre.
In some centres where doses were still in stock, those seeking the Covid jab for the first time were being told to go back home as healthcare service providers opted for those in need of a second dose.
On Monday this week, Malawi Interfaith Aids Association and Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) had suggested that those who got the first dose between March and May this year be prioritised in Covid vaccine administration during this second phase, citing inconclusive research on how long one can stay between the first and second dose.
MHEN Executive Director George Jobe said there was sense in the suggestion that those that got the first dose should be prioritised.
“Surely, those that got the first jab would want to complete the dosage,” he said.
However, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the ministry’s position wass that Covid vaccines would be given to both those receiving it for the first time and those who got the first jab.
“We are aware of the number of people that are due to receive their second jab. A lot of them are supposed to receive their second dosage but it would be unethical to deny someone from getting the vaccine just so we can give the jab to strictly those that received the first dose.
“The most important thing is that people who received the first dose are lining up in numbers to get the jab. Nonetheless, we, as a ministry, are trying our best to bring more vaccines so that they can be accessible to more people,” she said.
However, as doses are close to depletion, push has come to shove, with some healthcare service providers clearly indicating that those seeking a second dose get it earlier than those looking for their first vaccine dosage.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe confirmed that the country was running out of vaccines but assured the nation that more consignments are on the way to Malawi.
“The whole consignment of 192,000 doses the country received was not going to be enough for Lilongwe alone, yet it had to be shared across the country. So, we are running out of the vaccine,” he said.
The country will, according to Presidential Taskforce on Covid co- Chairperson Kandodo Chiponda, from next week receive 120,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca, 370,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson, 300,000 doses of Pfizer and, later in September, 360,000 vaccine doses under the auspices of Covid Vaccine Access facility.
The 192,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca that are fast running out were a donation from the government of France and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund.
Meanwhile, psychologist Chiwoza Bandawe has said he is not surprised by growing demand for Covid vaccines during the second phase of vaccine administration.
The professor said the country was registering more people getting the vaccine than the last time because, with time, myths surrounding the vaccine are proving to be untrue.
“With time people change. People look at evidence. They see the situation on the ground and see that cases of Covid are increasing and adapt because, at the end of the day, it’s a matter of survival. People do anything to survive and we have the tendency to shift and change to survive,” Bandawe said.