Government sticks to AstraZeneca

Gospel Kazako

The government has said it will proceed with the importation and distribution of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine despite revelations that the vaccine offers limited protection from mild illness caused by the South African variant of coronavirus.

International media were Sunday awash with reports that AstraZeneca, Malawi’s preferred Covid vaccine, is not as effective in protecting people from mild illness caused by the South African variant of coronavirus as other vaccines.

But, according to Oxford University’s lead vaccine developer Professor Sarah Gilbert, the vaccines should still protect against severe disease.


“Maybe we won’t be reducing the number of cases as much, but we still won’t be seeing the deaths, hospitalisations and severe disease,” Al Jazeera quotes her as saying.

Information Minister Gospel Kazako said the country settled for the vaccine after being advised so by a team of local scientists which reviewed the vaccine and certified it safe.

“After the vaccine was certified as safe where it was developed, a local team of scientists also looked at it and said it was safe. Vaccines are received with mixed reactions all the time and this is not strange. What is more important, however, is that the majority of Malawians agree [on the need] to have the vaccine.


“This is the same vaccine which Cabinet ministers, senior government officials and even healthcare workers themselves—who have studied vaccines— will receive. One thing which should be clear is that nobody is being forced to receive the vaccine but if anyone decides against it, they will be risking their own lives,” Kazako said.

Principal Secretary for Health, Dr Charles Mwansambo, also said the government would proceed with AstraZeneca vaccine, saying the information being quoted in the story has not been peer-reviewed yet.

“What is the source of that information? Is it a medical journal? There are a lot of questions and propositions but let us wait for its publication. Usually, in medical research, we look at medical review journals and see what our colleagues are saying. Once that is out, I should be able to discuss this with you,” he said.

Mwansambo further said the ministry was in the process of analysing the data in its possession to determine how many of the active Covid cases in the country were of the South African variant and the initial virus that was detected in Wuhan, China.

“We are in the process of gene-sequencing to determine that. To do that, you need considerable amount of data and, once we have it, we will share with the public,” he said.

AstraZeneca’s efficacy is probably the lowest, with results of various studies indicating that its effectiveness rate is between 62 and 90 percent.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed by Oxford University in the United Kingdom (UK) and has already been rolled out in Brazil, the UK and other countries, while the Pfizer vaccine is manufactured by Pfizer and BionNTech and has been approved and rolled out in China, the United States (US) and Israel, among other countries.

On the other hand, Moderna vaccine is being manufactured by ModernaTX, and is already being distributed in Spain and the US, among other countries.

While this is the case, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines’ efficacy hangs around 95 percent.

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