Ministry of Health (MoH) faces the risk of having 27 000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine expiring tomorrow due to low uptake by the public.
Data from the ministry indicates that a further 45 000 doses of the single-jab Johnson and Johnson vaccine are due to expire on December 12 this year.
In her presentation during a media engagement in Mzuzu organised by the Malawi Red Cross Society, MoH routine immunisation officer Temwa Mzengeza said there has been low uptake of the vaccines due to misinformation and disinformation.
She said: “Since we started administering these vaccines, we have more males getting the jabs than females, we are yet to find out what is really happening. The uptake is not as we had anticipated.”
Mzengeza said the ministry expected that as soon as the vaccines arrived in the country, they would be administered.
“We are not very much impressed, but still, the figures are picking up. But at the rate we are going, we hope we don’t lose any more vaccines,” she said.
In an interview on Tuesday, MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the country needs to be vaccinating at least between 6 000 and 8 000 people daily to deplete the current stocks.
But so far, the vaccination rate has been less than 2 000 per day.
Chikumbe said: “We have done the best we can on the supply side of the vaccine, it’s now up to the public to take the vaccine.
“We still have a challenge with misinformation, disinformation and misconceptions through social media and even in religious circles. It will be unfortunate if we have to destroy some vaccines.”
He said Malawi is one of the poorest countries that up to now may not be able to buy the vaccines.
Ironically, President Lazarus Chakwera last week expressed his frustration over inequalities and disparities in access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world.
In a pre-recorded address to the 76th session of the United General Assembly (Unga), the President pleaded with developed countries to release vaccine doses to poor nations such as Malawi.
Chikumbe lamented that it would be a sad tale for the country to destroy vaccine doses which are in short supply globally because people are refusing to get the jab.
MoH statistics show that the lowest uptake has been recorded in Mangochi (1.5 percent), Machinga (1.2 percent) and Phalombe (2percent), while Ntchisi District has the highest uptake at 19 percent and Mzimba North at 16.5 percent lead the table.
Epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala urged government to consider moving the response out of Capital Hill and district offices into the communities.
He said: “We need to consider changing the face of the response from healthcare workers and government officials, to authorities that people identify with and listen to such as local community leaders, faith leaders and councillors.
“We also need to move venues of these vaccinations from health facilities to community gathering places, markets, mosques, churches, and chief ’s headquarters. In the UK, mosques and churches are vaccination centres.”
However, Chikumbe said had the ministry not adopted the suggested new strategies, uptake would have been extremely low.
Earlier this year, Malawi also disposed of expired 19 000 AstraZeneca jabs.
Malawi targets to vaccinate 11 million people or 60 percent of the population with the Covax Facility providing vaccines for 3.8 million people.
Government said it would mobilise seven million doses to hit at least 11 million of the population.
Cumulatively, by Monday, Malawi had recorded 61 517 cases, including 2 278 deaths.