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‘Special’ Covid vaccine arrangement stirs panic

Rafiq Hajat

Martha Chizuma

There was public consternation Sunday following an alleged plan by Blantyre District Health Office to arrange a special Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccination programme for the Asian community.

According a communication making rounds on social media, the vaccine was supposed to be administered by DHO workers, further insinuating that the exercise would take place at Malmed Private Hospital.

“By special arrangement with the Asian/Indian community in town, we have organised a hassle-free AZ [AstraZeneca] vaccination exercise at my institution tomorrow Sunday starting from 9:00am. If any of you are passing through town tomorrow and have not had the jab yet, please feel free to partake. Blantyre DHO Covid Vaccination Team will run the show. Several Indians have put together something to pay allowances for the BT Covid team for making them work on this on a Sunday,” the communication reads.

The alleged arrangement was vehemently opposed by some people, who called for equitable distribution of the vaccine.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, writing on her Facebook page, said there should not be any special arrangements for the vaccine.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine is for all Malawians and for free. No special arrangements will be entertained, no allowance to the vaccinators is allowed, let’s get it from the approved health institutions,” she said.

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma also condemned the alleged arrangement, saying she would investigate how the DHO, if it did, arrived at the decision.

“If indeed this is an arrangement that was made by Blantyre DHO with this clinic, it is something that needs to be further inquired into to understand what exactly was the thought process to arriving at that arrangement. And I will do exactly that,” she said.

Speaking in an earlier interview, Blantyre DHO spokesperson Chrissy Banda dismissed the communication, saying it was not true.

“The vaccine is on high demand so watch out. Other people who are not healthcare workers might be creating fake sites claiming to be healthcare workers. This is not true. We are starting vaccination on Monday in the sites indicated on the press release,” she said.

Later, the office also released a statement distancing itself from the alleged arrangement.

And, in a statement, The Asian Association of Malavi condemned the development. The association’s chairperson Rafiq Hajat confirmed issuing the statement.

“This alleged prioritisation on basis of ethnicity or status is distasteful in the extreme and is not condoned by the majority of the Asian community, who were not privy to this information and indeed recognise the need for a level playing field in all such matters,” reads the statement, which Hajat has signed.

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