The Ministry of Health says there will be no special arrangements on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine administration and that only approved health facilities will be used as vaccination points.
The ministry’s spokesperson Joshua Malango said this in an interview yesterday following reports that Malmed Private Clinic in Blantyre had made an arrangement with the Asian Business Community and Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) to administer the vaccine yesterday.
A notice that circulated on various social media platforms yesterday, purportedly from the private hospital, indicated that the ABC had organised allowances to pay health workers from the DHO; hence, priority would be given to members of the Indian community first with other Malawians allowed to get the jab afterwards.
But Malango said the ministry will not entertain any such arrangements, adding that there is no need for people to be making any payments as the vaccine is free of charge.
He said: “There is no special arrangement allowed outside the approved sites for the vaccination exercise.”
When contacted, Malmed Private Clinic director Dr Charles Dzamalala said the facility would issue a statement regarding the matter “later”.
Efforts to speak to ABC chairperson Faruk Gani proved futile as his known mobile number could not be reached while vice-chairperson Parth Patel said he is no longer active; hence, could not comment.
But in a statement yesterday, Blantyre DHO director of health and social services Dr Gift Kawalazira said no private clinics are administering the vaccine.
Reads the statement in part: “The office is informing the general public that vaccination centres remain government and Christian Health Association of Malawi health facilities as per government policy.
“The office is further informing the public to rely on official communication from this office on issues to do with health activities in the district.”
According to the statement, the recommended facilities include Gateway Clinic, Limbe, Mlambe, Lirangwe, Chileka, Chilomoni, Zingwangwa, Mpemba, Ndirande and Kadidi health centres.
Following a backlash on social media pertaining to the Malmed Clinic matter, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma wrote on her Twitter page that her office will inquire further.
She wrote: “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 arrive that arrangement. And I will do exactly that.”
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda also wrote on her Facebook page that the vaccine remains free of charge and there will be no special arrangements. She also advised people to get vaccinated from approved health institutions.
Government received the first consignment of 360 000 vaccine doses from the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility on March 11 before later receiving another batch of 50 000 doses from the Government of India.
The Ministry of Health aims to immunise 11 million people, representing 60 percent of the Malawi population.
Asked when the country should expect more vaccine doses, Malango was non-committal, saying government would update the public accordingly.
But Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo is on record as having said the 360 000 doses of the vaccine were just a start-up from the Covax Facility which is expected to provide a total 3.8 million doses.
As of Saturday, a total of 23 907 people had received the vaccine.