Malawi is expected to receive its first batch of Pfizer vaccine this month, making it the third brand of Covid vaccines being administered to people.
Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo said the country would receive its first batch of Pfizer containing 372,000 doses this month, adding that this would be on top of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses that are expected into the country.
On September 8, the United States (US) government donated vaccine storage equipment that is being distributed to all districts across the country.
US-based United Parcel Service Foundation donated 30 state-of-the-art-ultra-cold chain equipment to be used for storing Pfizer vaccines.
US Ambassador to Malawi Robert Scott said his government was committed to fighting the Covid pandemic.
“One tool that we now bring to confront the pandemic is ultra-cold chain equipment. The common work that this donation will do is to facilitate a unique collaboration between the Ministry of Health and its partners,” Scott said.
The 30 portable freezers can store up to 6,000 vaccine doses at a temperature as low as 80 degrees Celsius.
The equipment, which is fitted with monitoring gadgets, would be used for carrying vaccine doses from storage facilities to vaccination sites.
Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe told The Daily Times Sunday that the latest instruction is that Pfizer doses can still be stored in normal refrigerators, so long as they are used within 30 days.
He said if the doses were to be stored for longer than 30 days, then they are supposed to be kept at a temperature as cold as -80 degrees Celsius.
However, Chikumbe said Malawi was yet to make a decision on whether Pfizer vaccine doses should also be given to those that are under 18 years, although other countries have started doing so.
“We know that, in other countries, Pfizer is also being given to those as young as 12 years old but, as for Malawi, we made a decision that we should start from those that are 18 years or older.
“Now that Pfizer has a different allowance in terms of age, we, as a nation, want to decide,” he said.
Last month, MoH Expanded Programme on Immunisation Manager, Dr Mike Chisema, said the ministry was working with United Nations Children’s Fund officials to purchase 1,600 litres of storage space to be used for storing Pfizer vaccine doses.
Currently, Malawi is using two brands of Covid vaccines: Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Oxford-AstraZeneca. The latter requires two doses while J&J and Pfizer vaccines require a person to get a single jab.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.