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Faith leaders courted on coronavirus vaccine

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Charles Mwansambo

By Wezzie Gausi:

Following Ministry of Health (MoH) reports that less than 170,000 people have received the first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, faith leaders have been urged to become advocates of the jab.

Malawi Red Cross Society President Innocent Majiya, who led the training of Malawi Interfaith Aids Association (MIAA) members in Dowa District Wednesday, said healthy living was everyone’s responsibility.

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The development comes after MoH Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo said on Tuesday that there was a need for people to get vaccinated to avoid cases where vaccine doses reach expiry date. He indicated that vaccines are on high demand elsewhere in the world and, as such, people in Malawi should make the best of the opportunity.

Taking a cue from Mwansambo, Matiya told MIAA members that, with the proliferation of misleading information on vaccines on social media and other platforms, faith leaders could dispel notions and help in promoting health-seeking behaviour among the faithful.

“We decided to engage these leaders as people listen to them when they give out information. With the Covid pandemic at hand, we want them to be agents of change. They can play a crucial role in encouraging people to take the vaccine,” Matiya said.

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MoH Deputy Director for Community Health Doreen Alli said the government would continue to partner stakeholders in the Covid vaccine administration exercise.

She said the ministry was hopeful that faith leaders would contribute to the success of the vaccination programme in the country.

“We, as government, are appealing to all partners to help us in disseminating correct information regarding the vaccine. The whole world is in crisis and the vaccine is all we need,” Alli said.

MIAA Executive Director Pilira Ndaferankhande said faith leaders had the ability to turn the tables if given the right information regarding the vaccine.

“The pandemic has affected all of us. We have seen pastors dying and even our church members; as such, the vaccine is the only way to go in the meantime,” Ndaferankhande said.

Meanwhile, about 164,733 people have been vaccinated country wide.

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