Local and international rights groups have challenged Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders meeting in Lilongwe from today to ensure citizens in the region have access to Covid-19 vaccines.
In statements addressed to in-coming Sadc chairperson President Lazarus Chakwera, three organisations—Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and Oxfam in Malawi—have urged the nations to diversify supply options beyond the African Union and World HealthOrganisation-led Covax Facility.
The statement reads in part: “Already fragile health systems are being stretched to their limits as hospitals struggle to cope with the increase in admissions and many countries are currently suffering an oxygen shortage.
“Despite this public health crisis, vaccination roll out in the region has been extremely slow, and is well known and documented,”
The three institutions have also urged Sadc leaders to ensure that they engage in sub-regional cooperation to seek both international and sub-regional assistance to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
The effort, they said, should include diversifying supply options beyond the Covax Facility which many African countries are relying on but has not delivered as expected due to supply challenges in India.
In June 2021, WHO reported that of the five countries accounting for 76 percent of new coronavirus infections in Africa—South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda, and Namibia—three are in Sadc region.
During the Global Education Summit in the United Kingdom last month, Chakwera raised similar concerns on vaccine availability to poor nations.
He went further by holding several talks, where he advocated for equity in Covid-19 vaccines.
In February 2021, outgoing Sadc chairperson Filipe Nyusi, who is President of Mozambique, recommended Sadc Committee of Ministers of Health to establish a strong regional collaborative strategy.
The strategy was to pool resources together to urgently acquire the vaccines for distribution to citizens in the region.
Currently, Malawi targets to vaccinate 11 million or 60 percent of the country’s critical population with the Covax Facility providing vaccines for 3.8 million people.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo recently said government would mobilise seven million doses to hit at least 11 million of the population to achieve herd immunity.
So far, 728 388 vaccine doses have been administered in the country.
Cumulatively 463 848 and 159 229 people have received the first dose and second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine respectively while 105 671 people have received Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Malawi reported its first three Covid-19 cases on April 2 2020. So far, it has recorded 58 083 cases including 1 968 deaths.