- Thousands queue for 192 000 doses
- Vaccination centres open countrywide
Thousands of Malawians nationwide braved the cold weather to queue for hours for Covid-19 vaccine at inoculation centres which re-opened on Monday.
The country, which ran out of the vaccine mid-June this year, received 192 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca on Saturday.
The vaccine was donated by France through the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covax Facility-a multi-donor initiative which procures drugs for poor countries.
In Blantyre, hundreds of people thronged Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Gateway Clinic, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes) Private Clinic and other health centres such as Chilomoni, Ndirande and Zingwangwa to get the first or second jabs as appropriate.
There were long queues in the morning comprising both young and older persons.
At QECH, the main referral facility in the Southern Region, and Gateway Clinic, the queues stretched from the vaccination centre to the junction of Chipatala Avenue and Mahatma Ghandi Road.
While in the health centres the queues were manageable.
In all vaccination centres, the exercise proceeded smoothly with no hiccups although people we spoke to complained of delays to get the jab.
In a telephone interview, Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira said the exercise started on a high note as the turnout was impressive.
He said: “The process has started very well and we hope that this will continue in the coming days. We ask those with underlying conditions, those aged above 50 and those with underlying conditions to come because they are at high risk.”
However, Kawalazira acknowledged some challenges at some of the health centres, citing logistical challenges, especially shortage of hand sanitiser or soap for the nurses.
The shortage meant some staff had to go out to wash hands after administering the vaccine, a situation which irked some who went for the exercise.
However, Kawalazira said the problem was resolved by Monday noon.
The situation in Lilongwe was almost the same. Thousands of people flocked to Covid-19 vaccination centres early Monday morning.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said government is impressed with people’s response to the programme.
He said the huge turnout is an advantage so that no vaccines expire and go to waste.
Said Chikumbe: “As the vaccines are coming in chunks there is no risk of having any of them expire. On the other hand, the way people have started showing up for the jab, I doubt that the vaccines can stay that long to even get expired.”
However, he attributed Monday’s massive turnout to intensive civic education on the advantages of getting vaccinated.
Charles Kamphaka, who went for vaccination at African Bible College (ABC) Clinic in Lilongwe, said he needed the jab so much to increase his immunity to the novel virus.
“The way the numbers of Covid-19 cases are rising, I wanted to make sure that I don’t miss this vaccination so that I have a peace of mind. I am glad that I have received the vaccine,” he said.
In Mzuzu City, long queues were seen at health facilities such as Zolozolo and Mapale and St Johns Hospital in Chimaliro.
Hundreds of people wrestled with each other on the queues to get vaccinated first.
In an interview, Mzimba North DHO spokesperson Lovemore Kawayi said vaccination in the district also began on a high note.
He said: “Most centres have very long lines of people expecting to be vaccinated; this was not the case in the past when most people were hesitant.”
The response to vaccination is in sharp contrast to when the exercise started in March this year.
Many people were hesitant to get their jabs, a situation the Ministry of Health attributed to misconceptions and misinformation pertaining to the vaccines.
The development led the country to destroy 19 600 doses of the vaccines on May 19 at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.
Data from the Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim) shows that as of Sunday before the vaccination exercise resumed, 428 407 people had received the first dose while only 43 165 had taken both doses.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr. Charles Mwansambo said on Thursday assured the country more vaccine is coming into the country.
He said the country will receive about 1.3 million doses of assorted Covid-19 vaccines between now and September as they target to vaccinate about 10.5 million or 60 percent of the critical population.
“Apart from the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, other vaccines scheduled to arrive are US’s Johnson and Johnson [J and J] and Pfizer,” said Mwansambo.
Due to few people getting vaccinated, following the suspension of the exercise after vaccines run out last month, the country has witnessed a spike in positive cases, admissions and deaths.
As of on Monday, 33 people died while 372 new cases were recorded bringing the total active cases to 10 642.