Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda says the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country will take place in March with health workers and people with opportunistic conditions prioritised.
Speaking after touring the Elard Alumando Dream Centre of the Community of St Egidio in Blantyre, which is set to become a new Covid-19 testing centre, the minister said the vaccines will first be rolled out on priority basis.
Said Chiponda: “A team of experts is working on which of the six vaccines available suits Malawi. Some of the doses [of the vaccine] require temperatures below minus 80 degrees [Celsius] so we can’t get that. Once they [the experts] are done, we will roll out by March. We are also looking at strategic deployment and storage.”
Currently, there are six pharmaceutical firms that have placed their vaccines on the cylinders for technical oxygen for use for medical oxygen.”
But Chima cited the shortage of cylinders as one of the challenges they are facing. He was, however, quick to point out that the company was recalling cylinders from some of its customers.
Currently, Afrox Malawi has oxygen stocks that can last for 10 days.
The company’s oxygen availability status comes amid public fears of a potential stockout of the commodity critical in the fight against Covid-19, particularly for patients having difficulty in breathing, in the country’s hospitals.
In her remarks, the minister said she was satisfied with the efforts by Afrox Malawi and added that government was also procuring additional cylinders for its hospitals.
global market. They are Pfizer/Biontech, Astrazeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson and Johnson, CureVac and Moderna. There are also other vaccines currently under development in China and Russia.
The Covid-19 vaccine issue has pitted developed countries against developing countries which accuse the rich nations of hoarding the available vaccines at the expense of underprivileged people in developing countries.
In a written response on the European Union (EU) response to the Covid-19 pandemic, EU Delegation in Malawi head of development cooperation Ivo Hoefkens said on Tuesday that EU has set aside an 850 million euros package to cover for the Covax facility to help secure 1.3 billion doses of vaccination for 92 low and middle-income countries, including Malawi.
He said the EU has also contributed 180 million euros to the International Monetary Fund Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust for debt service relief in 29 low-income countries to allow them increase their social, health and economic spending in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The commitment from the EU, coupled with the initiative from the Dream Centre, should boost Malawi’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
However, health authorities in Malawi will have to contend with supply shortages as pharmaceutical firms are reportedly facing constraints in meeting the global demand for Covid-19 vaccines.
Renowned pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca and Pfizer/Biontech have recently failed to supply doses to the EU, according to the BBC which also reported a raging bitter row between the EU and AstraZeneca after the Anglo-Swedish company failed to deliver the 300 million doses the continental bloc ordered. Pfizer/Biontech also failed to deliver 12.5 million doses it promised to deliver by the end of 2020.
The pharmaceutical companies alleged that they are facing supply shortages, but the EU and several world leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have expressed concern that some rich countries are hoarding the vaccine at the expense of the poor in developing countries.
In his virtual address at the World Economic Forum, Ramaphosa is quoted by Reuters as having said: “Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs. We are not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not. We all must act together in combating the coronavirus.”
His sentiments were echoed by China President Xi Jinping who urged the international community to “uphold multilateralism and build a community with a shared future for mankind” to solve intricate problems facing the world.
On the setting up of Dream as a Covid-19 testing centre, Chiponda described Dream as a partner and that its move is in line with President Lazarus Chakwera’s call for more tests in the country to fight the pandemic.
She said: “Blantyre is a big city. We need more testing centres. This centre beefs up what we already have. It will help ease the congestion. We have hope that people will heal as stats already show 60 percent of those with the virus are healing.”
Dream Centre head of programme Sandare Hawa Mamary said as a centre, they are happy to conduct more tests to ease congestion at other centres in the commercial capital.
“The situation is getting worse, but we are positive as we saw HIV testing. Tests here will be on referral from the Blantyre District Health Office.
“It is in our wish to support the ministry with what we have. So many people are walking with the signs and mass testing can do us well. We will start testing as soon as possible,” she said.
Last evening, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka reported that there were 830 new cases from 2 503 tests in 24 hours with 15 deaths and 244 recoveries.