- Chakwera says govt at mercy of donors on vaccine
- Task force to enforce measures, says schools won’t close
President Lazarus Chakwera says Malawi is at the mercy of the international community on the availability of Covid-19 vaccines amid a stock out in the country at a time cases are rising.
Briefing journalists yesterday at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe on his return from a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Extraordinary Heads of State and Government Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, the President said his administration may resort to using emergency funds to procure the doses.
Chakwera said: “You may not see any funds for Covid-19 vaccination [in the budget], but we have the unforeseen expenditure vote. We will use it plus the World Bank gave us $30 million [about K24.1 billion], we will get some vaccines.
“The challenge is that as we discussed in Maputo, it’s not easy to produce own vaccines, but as a region coming together we can have our own vaccines.
“Even outside Covid-19, we have always relied on international community for help with immunisation of various diseases, so it’s not something strange for us to admit that we are at the mercy of the international community.”
But the World Bank support to Malawi towards the acquisition and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines Chakwera is banking on is not immediate as in a June 18 statement, the bank said the financing will mostly go towards the procurement and deployment of eligible vaccines to cover eight percent of the population by December 2023.
And responding to suggestions for the Malawi Government to procure own vaccines instead of banking on donors and allegations that poor planning contributed to the stock-out, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr. Charles Mwansambo said in an interview that the challenges facing Malawi were beyond finances.
He attributed the shortage to the scramble for the vaccine owing to its high demand on the global scene; hence, affecting the supply.
“It looks as if people didn’t plan well, but everything was planned well, and deliveries were all on paper until the second wave hit India which is the major producer of vaccines,” Mwansambo said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda has said government is concerned with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases which has led to the positivity rate to rise again to eight percent from only two percent a few weeks ago.
Addressing the press in Lilongwe last evening after a Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 meeting, the minister, who also co-chairs the task force, said despite rising cases of Covid-19 which she blamed on laxity in observing preventive measures, government has decided not to close schools.
Said Chiponda: “government will keep on monitoring the situation day by day. The status of all Covid-19 measures and restrictions remain the same, but says police and Malawi Defence Force will start re-einforcing the measure as most Malawians have relaxed.”
The minister warned international bus operators against ferrying only passengers without Covid-19 negative certificates, saying doing so will attract a K100 000 fine or three months imprisonment ,as stipulated by the gazetted Covid-19 measures.
On his part, the task force co-chairperson Wilfred Chalamira-Nkhoma said government is set to receive about 20 0000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in the first few weeks of July, 2021 under what a “dose-sharing” arrangement, with another consignment of doses under the Covax Facility also expected to arrive by mid-August 2021.
But he says currently, sourcing of the vaccines globally has proved to be a challenge as supply or production of such vaccines has fallen short of the demand.
During yesterday’s briefing, the President also said it was regrettable that a majority of the citizenry turned up for the first doses of Covid-19 vaccination at a time the country was supposed to be administering the second jabs. He said the latecomers exerted pressure and affected the campaign’s planning.
The first consignment of 360 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in March from Serum Institute of India courtesy of the Covax Facility, a partnership between the Gavi Institute, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef. The African Union also donated 102 000 doses whose expiry was mid-March while a further 50 000 AstraZenecca doses arrived on March 14.
The President yesterday also voiced his concerns about the rising cases of Covid-19 which hit three-digits on Wednesday this week. He urged health authorities to start working on a plan to ensure that the forthcoming Sadc Summit Malawi is scheduled to host in August does not lead to more cases.
He said government will continue monitoring the local cases in relation to the summit.
The President also urged the business community to organise a business conference on the sidelines of the Sadc Summit. He also challenged the tourism sector to brace for long and short-term opportunities that may come with the summit.
Chakwera also said that Mozambique, which experienced drought in some parts, was keen on importing maize from Malawi which has recorded a surplus.
Malawi reported its first three Covid-19 cases on April 2 2020, barely a fortnight after the WHO had declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. It has so far recorded 35 219 cases, including 1 178 deaths.