Malawi is among African Union (AU) member States failing to administer Covid-19 vaccines to key populations, thereby derailing efforts to reach the 60 percent target by December 2022.
Vaccine advocacy infographics published on African Centres for Disease Control (CDCs) website last week showed that Malawi is vaccinating people aged 12 and above instead of the recommended 10 years and above, which is frustrating efforts in meeting the set 60 percent target.
The African CDCs said out of the 54 AU member States, only South Africa, Seychel les, Morocco, Mauritius and Libya are targeting the correct age group with the Covid-19 vaccines.
The information was compiled through Covid-19 reports of individual AU member States and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Malawi has so far vaccinated 3.3 percent out of its 60 percent or 11 million targeted critical population.
Public health experts have since given mixed views on the development.
In an interview yesterday, epidemiologist Titus Divala said the development is not of so much concern except for the fact that the country continues to lag behind in vaccinating the population.
He said the fact that Malawi has only managed to vaccinate 3.3 percent of its targeted population is worrisome, especially considering that the fourth wave is already here.
Divala said: “On this I see no real issue at all. In fact, my advice for the continent would be not to lower age cut off until all people aged 50 and above are vaccinated.”
He said what is sad is that many people continue to shun the vaccination exercise largely due to inaccurate information or access to the doses themselves.
But in a separate interview, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes) professor of epidemiology Adamson Muula said such low coverage and failure to reach out to the key populations should be an issue of concern to the country.
He said: “I have often repeated that our governors have done remarkably well in convincing external partners to procure and deliver the necessary and needed doses on our doorstep.
“Prior to receiving the first doses, some of us criticised the government for not budgeting for the purchase of vaccines. Presently, however, we have more vaccines than arms which are willing to receive the doses.”
Muula, however, said there will always be room to improve the vaccine coverage adding that while some Malawians have exercised their right not to be vaccinated, such decisions have come at a huge cost which has claimed many lives.
He said the country needs to continue mobilising for more people to be vaccinated.
President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice- President Saulos Chilima led the vaccine rollout on March 11 2021 with a call on Malawians to not be fooled by myths associated with the Covid-19 vaccines; hence, they took the first jabs to show that they are safe for everybody.
Our efforts to seek comment from Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe and Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo proved futile as they could not be reached.
But speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Thursday last week, Mini s ter of Heal th Khumb ize Kandodo Chiponda acknowledged that uptake of the vaccines has not been high enough.
She said: “The vaccine remains our best preventive tool and reaching 60 percent of Malawians remains our target.”
During the media briefing Chiponda, who is also Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson, announced that the Covid-19 vaccines will be mandatory for certain categories of people to be announced in due course.
According to the Ministry of Health, the country has so far administered over 1.5 million vaccines comprising AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (J and J) that have been provided by the Covax Facility which is a global initiative intended to secure equitable access to vaccines.
The Covax Facility is led by the World Health Organisation and supported by partners such as the Global Alliance for Vacciness and Immunisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Unicef.
Figures from the Public Health Institute of Malawi show that as of Saturday 651 693 people received the vaccines.
By breakdown, 283 841 people received J and J while 987 840 received the first dose of AstraZeneca and 367 852 received the second jab.