Malawi does not have vaccines for the second round of the oral cholera vaccine programme targeting 2.3 million people in nine hotspot districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Mulanje, Blantyre, Machinga, Mangochi, Balaka and Neno.
The Ministry of Health started with 1.9 million people in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Mulanje, Blantyre, Machinga, Mangochi and Balaka but later added Neno early this month.
The ministry’s spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the country is still on the waiting list because the vaccines are produced on demand.
“The demand is high this year, so they are supplying to countries that applied earlier than us. We are waiting on the WHO [World Health Organisation] to advise us when the vaccines are coming.
“We are supposed to administer the second dose two weeks to six months after the first dose and you would still be protected,” Chikumbe said.
He expressed hope that the vaccines would be in within six months of the initial round, saying otherwise, the country will have to start all over again.
In the meantime, Chikumbe said, the ministry is promoting other ways of preventing the disease.
“Vaccines are just one of the preventions and we are continuing with messages on the importance of upholding high levels of hygiene and we are distributing chlorine to households because we know that the affected areas are lacking potable water,” he said.
Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe said it is important for government to publicise such postponements to keep the public in the know.
“We are already facing resistance when it comes to uptake of vaccines. It is important that when you tell someone that your next appointment is on this date, the vaccines are available, otherwise it will be difficult to rekindle that interest when such appointments are postponed,” Jobe said.
As of yesterday, the country had recorded 1,073 Cholera cases and 44 deaths.
A separate outbreak resembling cholera has also hit Tukombo in Nkhatabay District affecting at least 108 people out of which eight have died.