President Lazarus Chakwera has said Covid vaccine is a must-have if the country is to sustain gains made in the fight against the pandemic.
Chakwera was speaking when he launched the country’s Covid vaccination programme in Zomba, where the President received the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in the country, followed by First Lady Monica, former president Joyce Banda and spouse Richard.
Malawi Defence Force Commander General Vincent Nundwe, Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service George Kainja, Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church and United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres also received the vaccine.
In Mzuzu, Vice-President Saulos Chilima led the vaccination campaign by getting a Covid jab of his own. Others who got vaccinated in Mzuzu included Second Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Aisha Adams, Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa and health rights activist Maziko Matemba.
Chakwera said putting an end to new infections was key to stemming the tide of coronavirus infections in the country.
“We must have the vaccine to ensure that everyone who gets the virus is protected from getting the virus again any time in future. We must have this vaccine to protect healthcare workers who risk their lives taking care of Covid patients. We must have the vaccine to protect teachers from infection so that they continue to [do the] work [of] educating tomorrow’s citizens,” Chakwera said.
He also hailed the country’s partners for ensuring that the vaccination programme was on course.
“We must remember that getting to this point has been a collaborative effort. To World Health Organisation for giving us technical assistance, I say thank you. To development partners, I say thank you. To global Alliance on Vaccine and Immunisation, I say thank you,” the President said.
Speaking earlier, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda warned healthcare workers against selling the vaccine, saying it is to be accessed free-of-charge.
Kandodo Chiponda also urged those handling the vaccine to follow guidelines, saying only those who should receive at a given particular time should.
“We have aunties, uncles and brothers out there who are not frontline healthcare workers. Let us not get the vaccines for our relations whose turn has not come yet. In the end, there will be enough doses of the vaccine for everyone,” he said.
In Mzuzu, Chilima encouraged all the groups targeted to receive Covid vaccine during the current phase to turn up to get the jabs.
“At this point, I would like to encourage all the target groups to get vaccinated against Covid when your turn comes. I would also like to ask all honourable members of Parliament, all political leaders, all traditional leaders, all religious leaders and all members of the press to assist government in sending the right Covid-vaccination-messages to the communities,” Chilima said.
He dispelled the notion that there were sinister motives behind vaccine rollout.
“There is nothing satanic about it. It is the expectation of His Excellency the President that the example we have shown today, by being the first to take the vaccine, will inspire many Malawians to do the same, especially when it is rolled out at a larger scale very soon,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Health Chrissie Kalamula Kanyaso said the vaccine was an additional tool for putting coronavirus cases in check.
She said Malawians should not relax but follow Covid precautionary measures religiously.