Malawi health authorities fear vaccine hesitancy could lead to tens of thousands of COVID-19 jabs expiring early next month. With just 2% of Malawi’s population vaccinated, authorities hope to increase uptake by deploying mobile vaccination clinics to bring the vaccine closer to people.
Malawi has so far received just over 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX facility.
But vaccine hesitancy in Malawi is widespread largely because of misperceptions of the jabs' efficacy and safety.
Dr. Gift Kawalazira, who heads Health and Social Services at the Blantyre Health Office, says there’s yet another reason for the low vaccination rate.
“We have noticed that with the coming of summer, the number of cases has drastically reduced, and also the number of people coming for vaccination have reduced from having over 2,000 people per day to having just about 400 people per day now,” he said.
Kawalazira said deploying mobile vaccination centers will help increase vaccine uptake, noting that when the initiative was launched Saturday over 600 people were vaccinated - and six companies booked the mobile clinic to come and vaccinate their workers.
He predicted the initiative will help Malawi meet its vaccination target of 60% by 2022 and allay fears that more vaccines will expire.
“Johnson & Johnson is actually expiring after December and AstraZeneca has got two different batches, one of which is expiring next month, and the other one is going up until December,” he said.
In May, Malawi incinerated about 20,000 AstraZeneca doses that had expired after many people refused the jab due to concerns about its safety and efficacy.
Malawi health ministry statistics show that currently only about 700,000 people have had one jab, while about 400,000 are fully vaccinated, representing 2.1% of the country's 18 million population.
Simeon Phiri got his jab Wednesday at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Limbe market in Blantyre. He said the convenience with which he could get the jab played an important role for him.
“This has helped me a lot because it has provided me easy access to the vaccine instead of walking a long distance. For example, I came here to Limbe to do some errands, but I also have found an opportunity to get vaccinated,” Phiri said.
To increase uptake in rural areas, the government is currently working with traditional leaders to mobilize and tell their communities about the need to be vaccinated when the mobile clinics visit their villages.
Source: Voice of America