Malawi has lower than 600 Covid-19 vaccines.
- Malawi’s inventory of Covid-19 vaccines is dangerously low, with solely 540 doses left.
- The nation appears to be headed for a 3rd wave, with a rise in infections and cases of the Delta variant.
- Malawi earlier obtained a part of the AstraZeneca vaccine batch from South Africa, however these have been near expiry.
With solely 540 Covid-19 vaccine doses left, Malawi is coming into a doubtlessly perilous third wave of coronavirus infections.
Reliant on the Covax facility, Malawi was experiencing the linked results of the devastating surge in India, which noticed the Serum Institute of India redirect exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine for home use. The nation introduced stockouts at sure services final week, and the quantity dwindled to simply greater than 500, as of 23 June.
With 119 new instances, including to a cumulative 35 115 instances, a 3rd wave of infections is on the horizon. Although decrease than many different international locations, together with South Africa, the precise figures could also be increased resulting from low testing.
“Our figures may not be that alarming but we’re not taking chances,” stated well being ministry spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe.
It was “understandable” that India, a rustic of greater than a billion individuals, was specializing in the security of its personal inhabitants, he added. For now, the nation was reliant on non-pharmaceutical measures like masks sporting, social distancing and the usage of hand sanitiser.
“We recognise the vaccine has not replaced the other preventative measures that we have promoted,” Chikumbe informed News24.
The nation has recorded instances of the Delta variant, first found in India, however the extent was not but clear as Malawi was largely reliant on South Africa for genomic sequencing, stated the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Malawi’s settlement with the Covax facility was meant to ship 3.8 million vaccine doses to cowl 20% of the inhabitants.
The nation’s vaccine rollout kicked off in March with 512 000 doses, stated Dr Nonhlanhla Dlamini, WHO consultant in Malawi. Most of those – 360 000 doses – have been acquired through Covax, the worldwide vaccine acquisition alliance. The Indian authorities additionally donated 50 000 doses.
Malawi additionally benefitted from South Africa’s AstraZeneca doses. Ineffective towards the Beta variant first found in South Africa in February, telecoms large MTN bought the inventory and donated it to the African Union (AU). Malawi was one among 9 international locations that benefitted from this scheme, taking supply of 102 000 doses in late March.
But when these doses got here – that is the AU doses – they solely had a shelf-life of three weeks.
These vaccine doses additionally arrived at a time when vaccine hesitancy was excessive, significantly in rural areas, and plenty of adopted a “wait-and-see” strategy to the early rollout, defined Dlamini.
Malawi was additionally nonetheless within the course of of coaching its vaccinators and needed to make use of cellular models, additional including to the delay within the rollout programme.
Last month, Malawi made world headlines when Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda personally oversaw the destruction of 19 610 vaccine doses that had reached their expiry date.
That train, stated Dlamini, was to encourage already waning public belief in vaccines.
“The scepticism was coming from the healthcare workers themselves, and of course they talk out there within the communities,” Dlamini stated.
“If they had kept those vaccines, the negative effect would have been so bad because then the story that was spreading was that all of the vaccines had expired. All of them.”
Dlamini stated she had seen attitudes towards vaccines change, with larger uptake, together with in rural areas.
Hope in dosage-sharing
Pledges from rich international locations promising to share their vaccine doses with poorer nations has introduced some hope to the nation. Malawi hopes to obtain its first batch of shared doses in July, stated Dlamini.
The nation can be shifting in the direction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which just like the AstraZeneca vaccine, doesn’t require ultra-cold storage services.
When the brand new inventory arrives, Malawi may also be higher ready to roll it out. The world well being alliance Gavi has supported the nation with coaching, chilly rooms and transportation services, stated Dlamini.
Last week, the World Bank additionally permitted a $30-million grant to assist the nation purchase vaccines, doubtlessly decreasing its reliance on Covax.