By Mandy Pondani
Pressure is mounting on Malawi to meet Covid-19 vaccination thresholds set by World Health Organisation (WHO) as reports indicate that the country has yet again run out of AstraZeneca doses.
Confirming the development, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said Friday the vaccine had run out in the wake of low uptake.
He then expressed doubt that Malawi would meet the June 2022-70 per cent mark which WHO has set for nations.
“We are not on a right trajectory having failed to meet the previous targets. By December last year, we had done three per cent against our own target of 10 per cent, and the WHO target was 40 per cent, so it is unlikely we will be able to meet the 70 per cent threshold by June,” Chikumbe said.
With the new target, Malawi is expected to have vaccinated 12 million people out of its 18 million population.
Chikumbe has attributed the low uptake of the vaccine to people’s unfamiliarity with the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses which are currently being administered, saying a majority of Malawians have in recent months warmed up to AstraZeneca.
“There is always a bit of hesitancy at the beginning, Pfizer started in January, need I say that the campaign we ran between November and December proved to be a success, once we stopped and let people present to our facilities at will, numbers have drastically gone down,” he added.
According to Chikumbe, the country is expected to receive about 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca mid-February.
But health rights activist Maziko Matemba has accused government for lacking what he said a proper strategy in meeting set Covid-19 targets set by global health authorities.
He wondered why such is the case when government admits of the implications that the vaccine has had on the socio-economic growth of the country.
He then challenged authorities to remove all the bottlenecks surrounding Covid-19 vaccination initiative, saying such is an economic stimulant.
“The targets are meant to save populations from the adverse effects of Covid-19, if you check countries like America and Britain, more than 80 per cent of their people are vaccinated and are opening up in order to get economies back to their feet, so government must have a plan for demand creation for instance,” Matemba said.
He then observed that in his State of the Nation Address at Parliament Thursday President Lazarus Chakwera did not outline what he called an aggressive strategy enough to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
“We may not have the vaccines yes but we need to be aggressive enough, mind you, it’s the very same development partners who will be issuing us with the sanctions should we continue to lag behind because they are doing well in their countries,” Matemba said.
WHO in its recent communique has called on countries to establish updated national Covid-19 vaccine targets, monitor vaccine demand and uptake and revise national vaccination strategies and policies among others.
As of last month, Malawi was the fourth worst country in terms of the numbers of vaccinated people in Southern African Development Community.
As of last Friday, 1,886,464 vaccine doses had been administered in Malawi according to data obtained from MoH, with recorded 84,693 Covid cases and 2,565 deaths.