Contrary to the Ministry of Health (MoH)’s announcement that it would start administering Pfizer Covid vaccine by January 1 this year, The Daily Times can reveal that most districts are facing teething problems.
We have established that there is a litany of challenges, among them lack of storage facilities and MoH’s delays in distributing the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine is mainly targeting children aged between 12 and 17 years with the aim of helping learners avoid losing out on school time as a result of testing positive for Covid or as a result of contact with people infected with the virus.
In Karonga District, for instance, vaccine rollout has not started because health officials want clients to book in advance.
Karonga District Director of Health and Social Services David Sibale confirmed the development.
He said they have made the arrangement because the Pfizer vaccine is delicate and can easily be denatured if not stored under ideal conditions.
The director said messages would be sent to targeted facilities for parents to book vaccines for their children and that, once the desired number of clients is achieved, they would start administering the vaccine.
“We will be starting anytime soon this week but we want to raise awareness first because we want the parents to book first because Pfizer can easily expire if it hasn’t been stored properly,” Sibale said.
Pfizer vaccine is supposed to be stored at a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius and MoH is supposed to supply district hospitals with the required refrigerators.
Mchinji and Ntchisi district health officers (DHOs) said Monday that they were yet to receive both refrigerators and vaccines from the ministry to roll out the vaccination exercise.
However, Mzuzu Central Hospital plans to start the exercise this week.
The case is different in Blantyre and Chikwawa districts, where directors of health and social services Gift Kawalazira and Stalin Zinkanda, respectively, indicated that they had started administering the vaccine.
Kawalazira said, so far, the turnout has been “impressive”.
Meanwhile, MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe has admitted that some districts have not yet received both the vaccines and refrigerators.
He was, however, optimistic that the remaining districts would receive the consignments by the end of this week.
Chikumbe added that they had delayed rolling out the vaccine because Pfizer is different from other vaccines, in terms of care needed when handling the substance.
“We already had orientation meetings with all districts on how they can handle the vaccine and we have managed to reach out to many DHOs and, if there are some remaining, then they are very few and we will ensure that they are provided with what is needed by the end of this week,” Chikumbe said.
Pfizer is a two-dose vaccine and the second dose will come into the country after four weeks.