The British High Commission says Malawi stands to get a donation of about 1.5 million Covid-19 vaccine does courtesy of the Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance under the Covax Global Vaccines Facility.
British High Commissioner David Beer said in a statement released on Wednesday that Malawi is among the first beneficiary countries to receive vaccines whose global roll-out is due to start this month.
He said an indicative distribution forecast announced by Gavi shows that Malawi will receive 1 476 000 doses of the AZD1222 vaccine developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University.
Beer said: “Covid-19 is a global pandemic that needs global cooperation for a solution. No country is safe until the virus is under control everywhere. This is why the UK is proud to stand with Malawi and other countries so that those who need vaccines can get them.
“Through Covax, to which the UK has committed over half a billion pounds, Malawi is due to receive almost one and a half million doses that can protect frontline workers and the most vulnerable, and start to bring the pandemic under control.”
The United Kingdom was an early donor to Covax and one of the largest having contributed £548 million to the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) which ensures that countries such as Malawi can receive vaccines for free.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango and British High Commission spokesperson Benson Linje said the vaccines are the same that President Lazarus Chakwera announced on Sunday.
Malango said the 1.5 million doses were part of the first consignment to cover 20 percent of the population which the President mentioned on Sunday.
Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka is on record as having said the country will need to vaccinate between 60 percent and 80 percent of the population to achieve the herd immunity.
In his weekly Covid-19 update on January 31, the President said government had secured doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to give as many citizens as possible immunity against Covid-19.
He said: “The first consignment of the vaccine will arrive at the end of February in readiness for roll out in March, starting with 20 percent [about 3.8 million of the 18.4 million people] of the population, which will prioritise frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.”
The development comes amid calls from the Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), which called for equal distribution of the vaccines, stating that health workers in Mozambique, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) and Malawi are struggling to treat escalating numbers of patients with little prospect of being vaccinated to protect them from the virus.
MSF head of mission in Malawi, Marion Pechayre is quoted in the statement that so far 1 298 frontline health workers in Malawi have tested positive for Covid-19 and nine have died.
MSF director of operations Christine Jamet said they were appalled by the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the world.
The Covid-19 vaccine issue has pitted developed countries against developing countries which accuse the rich of hoarding the available vaccines at the expense of underprivileged people in developing countries.