Malawi receives its first COVID-19 vaccines, and just in time

Today, Malawi became the tenth African country to receive COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. 360,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses arrived at the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe to great fanfare, as Malawi recently suffered an intense second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Officials proudly stand together in celebration of the arrival of the vaccines Photo Credit: Hope Ngwira

The Malawi Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, World Health Organization Representative Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, UNICEF Country Representative Rudolf Schwenk and many other government officials were present during the special event. Minister Chiponda stated that the initial vaccination phase will target 20 percent of the population, starting with 60,000 frontline health workers.

“It is important that all health workers should be vaccinated to ensure that they are protected. The vaccine will help protect them from COVID-19 infection,” Chiponda said.

Hope Ngwira, Advocacy & Communications, VillageReach, is on hand to hear the Malawi Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda give remarks about the delivery. Photo Credit: VillageReach

According to the Ministry of Health, district-designated clinicians, nurses, health services assistants, health promotion officers and EPI coordinators will form the initial team vaccinating facility health workers.

COVAX will ship an additional 1.47 million doses to Malawi between now and May of this year. The country is also expecting 50,000 doses from the Government of India and 99,833 doses through the African Union.

To prepare for the vaccination rollout, Malawi also received 360,000 bundled syringes and 3,625 safety boxes for safe syringe disposal from UNICEF.

The Malawi Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda receives COVAX delivery at Kamuzu International Airport | Photo Credit: WHO Africa Region

“In this global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, syringes are as vital as the vaccine itself. It is critical to have adequate supplies of syringes already in place in every country before the vaccine arrives so that the vaccine can be administered safely. This would allow immunization to start immediately and help turn the tide on this terrible virus,” UNICEF Director Henrietta Fore said.

Since the pandemic was discovered in Malawi, more than 1,500 health workers have been infected with COVID-19. Now that COVID-19 vaccines have finally arrived, the important work of immunizing health workers and saving lives can begin.

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