President Lazarus Chakwera has disclosed that the country has secured AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to be administered from March this year.
Speaking during his weekly briefing at the New State House in Lilongwe Sunday, Chakwera said the secured doses of the vaccine would arrive in the country end February, with initial rollout not expected until March.
Describing the development as a “breakthrough”, the President slammed people that are spreading disinformation on the vaccine.
“The breakthrough I am referring to here is that, through the Covax [Covid Vaccines Global Access] facility, we have finally secured doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to give as many citizens as possible immunity against Covid. The first consignment of the vaccine will arrive at the end of February in readiness for rollout in March, starting with 20 percent of the population, which will prioritise frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.
“Our own scientists in our own labs will verify the safety of the vaccine and will give you full information so that no one is misled by social media lies and propaganda against vaccinations that the scientific community has worked hard to provide to save lives,” Chakwera said.
The President, who was speaking exactly 317 days since the first case of coronavirus was registered in Malawi, and 19 days after he declared a State of National Disaster due to rising cases of Covid, also said he had directed Ministry of Health officials to work hand-in-hand with College of Medicine scientists so that the country could take “ownership of our own scientific research into this virus”.
He said the scientists would be needed as a security measure against rumour mongering.
The President further said, as stakeholders continued to work from all angles in the fight against Covid, Malawi had made another breakthrough in terms of laboratory capabilities.
“For the first time since this pandemic hit us, Malawi’s scientists at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust lab at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital now have the capacity to sequence the virus that causes Covid. Additionally, we have partnered with the African and United States Centres for Disease Control to bring the same capacity to the National Public Health lab in Lilongwe.
“Being able to sequence the virus will reduce our reliance on labs in South Africa for that service. As a demonstration of the significance of this viral sequencing capacity, it has been confirmed that the new strain of the virus from South Africa is indeed here in Malawi. This confirms that we were right to treat this new wave with the seriousness it demanded, and so we must stay the course in preventing it from spreading,” Chakwera said.
In December last year, Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo told The Daily Times that at least 3.8 million Malawians, or about 20 percent of the country’s population, were earmarked for Covid vaccination set to be administered in the first half of this year.
He further said there were three candidates of vaccines that Malawi was looking at, which are Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine, Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.
He said two vaccines— the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid vaccine as well as Moderna Covid vaccine— needed more investments in the cold chain while the AstraZeneca one could be stored at around two to eight degrees Celsius and cost less than the other two.
As of Sunday, 1,788 Covid patients had recovered in 24 hours and 17,334 coronavirus tests had been carried out in the past eight days, 29 percent of which were positive for Covid.