The first consignment of 360 000 doses of AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine from the Covax Facility is expected to arrive in the country today.
Health experts have since warned against relaxation on preventive measure for the pandemic as the vaccine offerS protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, further calling for intensive civic education to demystify myths surrounding the vaccine.
In a daily update on the Covid-19 status on Wednesday, Minister of Health Khumbidze Chiponda said government will first target frontline health workers as they are at high risk of getting the infection while taking care of patients and suspected cases.
Over 1 500 health workers have been infected with Covid-19 since the pandemic was first registered in the country in April 2020.
Said Chiponda: “It is important that all health workers should be vaccinated to ensure that they are protected. The vaccine will help protect them from Covid-19 infection.
“Apart from the frontline health workers, the first phase will also target other social workers, those that due to nature of their job
interact with a lot of people. Getting vaccinated is one of the many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.”
The minister said the vaccine will also help protect the elderly and people with pre-existing chronic condition from becoming severely ill even if they acquired the disease.
In a Covid-19 weekly epidemiology report issued on Wednesday, the Public Health Institute of Malawi under the Ministry of Health said besides the initial 360 000 doses arriving today, an additional 99 833 doses from the African Union and 50 000 more from the Government of India are also expected in the country soon.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said government was yet to decide on how many people from the targeted groups will have to get the jab first.
He said : “ For AstraZeneca, you get the vaccine two times, so if someone gets it now, they will be vaccinated again after three months. It has not been decided yet on how many people will get the vaccine in each of the categories.
“People should not worry because more vaccines are coming. We need to understand that transportation is a challenge, even production because the demand is high. But surely, we will get all the vaccines required.”
Public health expert Dr Bridget Msolomba Malewezi in a separate interview yesterday said the model used to target people in the country, especially the elderly, health workers and teachers was ideal to prevent deaths.
She said: “There is need for concerted efforts in community engagement and mobilisation. There have been some efforts, but I think they need provide the correct information on the vaccine and make sure that there is vaccine acceptance among these groups and beyond.”
On his part, University of Malawi’s College of Medicine public health and epidemiology Professor Adamson Muula cautioned against relaxing on Covid-19 preventive measures as a result of the vaccines.
He said: “That the vaccines prevent one from contracting the disease is still being looked into. What we know is that it prevents severe disease, death and hospitalisation, where the efficacy is around 70 percent. This means that even when you get the vaccine, there is still need to continue following preventive measures.”
Muula added that the current crop of vaccines are not meant for children, indicating that the country has had one death of a child to Covid-19. He said people should, therefore, not be worried with the absence of a vaccine for children.
Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi president Dr Victor Mithi said they have embarked on public lectures to sensitise the public on the need to get the vaccine, which he believes will improve acceptability.
Last weekend , Malawi received 360 000 syringes and 3 625 safety boxes to be used for Covid-19 vaccinations. Administration of the vaccines is expected to start on March 15 2021, according to Mithi.