Ministry of Health analysis of recent Covid-19 admissions shows that the pandemic is hitting hard a section of the population that has not yet received Covid-19 vaccination.
In its analysis of the 277 admissions from June 26 to July 8, the ministry said 225 patients not vaccinated were admitted, representing 81.2 percent compared to 35 patients (12.6 percent) that had received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca.
While 11 of the patients had both doses of the vaccine. These represent four percent of admissions.
On the other hand, six others not classified as belonging to any category were also admitted, representing 2.2 percent.
But in a written response yesterday, infectious diseases expert and epidemiologist Dr. Titus Divala pointed out that while vaccines are the best public health interventions, from a statistical point of view, Malawians should not read too much into such numbers as presented by Ministry of Health.
He said: “For you to appreciate what I mean, you need to read the available numbers using appropriate denominators or sources population. By this, I mean that while our population is 18 million, only 385 242 got the first dose and 43 165 are fully vaccinated.
“So, apart from celebrating that the vaccine is helping, an alternative analysis could be that only 225 got hospitalised out of the 17.5 million unvaccinated which is a far smaller proportion compared to the 46 out of the 0.4 million vaccinated population.”
Divala said despite numbers being too small to read anything meaningful, countries that have vaccinated more people give confidence that there is need to have the vaccine.
While stressing the need to purchase more doses, he said the purchases should be guided by efficacy data against the dominant variant in the country, Delta originally reported in India.
In a separate interview via e-mail, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences professor in epidemiology Adamson Muula also said the data shared by the ministry was not enough to demonstrate whether the vaccine is working or not.
He said: “This is not the data to use. We need more data to make such conclusions. If, on the other hand, the majority of those being admitted into hospitals were those vaccinated, we could have concluded that the vaccine doesn’t work and does even harm people. We do not have such data.
“There are known and robust study designs that can answer the question as to whether the vaccine is working in Malawi or not.”
A total of 428 407 vaccine doses have been administered so far. However, the vaccination exercise has been put on hold due to lack of vaccines in the country.
Meanwhile, Malawi is this Thursday expected to receive an additional 192 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from bilateral donors, according to the Ministry of Health.
On June 29, civil society organisations (CSOs) led by the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) petitioned government through the Parliamentary Committee on Health at Parliament Building, demanding an allocation of at least $40 million (about K32 billion) to procure Covid-19 vaccines targeting about five million people to complement donations.
AHF country programme manager Triza Hara also asked government to address inequalities existing between the rural and urban areas in the country in vaccine administration and information dissemination.
Malawi has been banking on the yet-to-be-delivered 900 000 doses from the Covax Facility, a multi-donor initiative that mobilised the vaccines for poor countries.
Delivery was due in May, but delayed due to high demand for the vaccine and India’s decision to reduce exports of the same top cater for its domestic needs.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo, in a statement dated June 17, confirmed that the country was experiencing stockouts of the vaccine due to delays in arrival of the next consignment from the Covax Facility.
Malawi is targeting to vaccinate 11 million or 60 percent of the critical 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.
The country reported its first three Covid-19 cases on April 2 2020.
According to statistics from the Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim), as of Sunday, the country registered 39 186 cumulative cases, 240 new cases, including eight new deaths.