The government has added Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to its list of Covid vaccines as one way of dealing with the persistent shortage of Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine in the country.
Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda disclosed this Tuesday on the sidelines of a handover of 56 ambulances by the Global Fund to Malawi.
Kandodo Chiponda said the country has run out of Astra- Zeneca doses because Covid has hit hard India, which is the manufacturing country for the product.
She said Malawi could manage to store and use Pfizer.
“We have added Pfizer to the list of our vaccines. We have also added Johnson & Johnson.
“We are going to give Malawians different options. We do not want to put ourselves in a corner where we stick to only one vaccine because, when there are problems. then you have nowhere to go,” she said.
At the function, the World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed that Malawi would be among African countries that would benefit from 20 million doses of Johnson & John-son and Pfizer Covid vaccines expected to arrive in Africa by August.
WHO Representative to Malawi, Nonhlanhla Rosemary Dlamini, said the vaccine was a donation from the United States through the Covid Vaccine Access facility in coordination with the African Union.
Dlamini urged Malawi and other African countries to start setting up ultra-cold chain storage facilities for other types of vaccines including Pfizer.
She said a key driver to accelerate vaccine uptake on the continent is to upgrade the cold-chain capacity to store and handle vaccines such as Pfizer.
“The initial approved long term storage was -70°Centigrade [degrees Celsius]. Updated guidance from WHO and European Medicines Agency extends the storage requirements to 2-8° Centigrade for 31 days.
“This means that the vaccine can be shipped and stored at national level at an ultra-cold storage for six months,” Dlamini said.
When districts are ready, the vaccine can be distributed, stored at fridge temperature and be used for not more than 31 days.
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.