By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza
Government says despite various interventions that have been put in place to ensure that the many people in the country have been vaccinated against Covid 19 pandemic, the uptake still remains relatively very low.
Director of Public Health Institute of Malawi under the Ministry Of Health, Dr Benson Chilima disclosed this in Blantyre at the opening of the five day training on activities to scale up the uptake among the African member states.
Chilima said the country still have a long way to go in order to reach the set up targets of achieving 70 percent of Covid 19 vaccination by June 2023.
Among others the director, disclosed that the country has set to increase the uptake by 30 percent by June, 50 percent by December this year and 70 percent by June next year.
“But this is unlikely to be achieved due to various challenges that affect our interventions. At the moment, we are at around 4 to 5 percent and we would have at least reached 12 percent by now,” he said
According to him, only Ntchisi district has achieved 10 percent target as compared to other districts in the country.
Chilima cited the growing misconceptions due to false information, social _cultural and religious beliefs and poor community civic awareness as some of the attributable elements fueling the negative uptake of the vaccines.
Among others, Chilima said recently the government has introduced outreach interventions such as mobile clinics or door to door vaccinations but the activities were still not making a dent in scaling up the uptake.
“We could have put together the organized civic education campaigns to cover the large population targeting people such as chiefs, parents, children and religious leaders so as to dispel the misconceptions and that people should be aware of the basic facts about vaccinations but funding has been the deterrent factor>”
Chilima said there should also be incentives to encourage people to get vaccinations.
“This should have been done to make sure that all people have enough and concrete information about the goodness of vaccinations.
“Those in authority could have introduced serious programs about the same, on television stations, radio stations, and also using all media outlets, and maximizing use of journalists to help passing information to masses, as a way of solving the problems, ” he said.
However, the doctor said since the country is registering a positivity rate of under one percent of Covid 19 cases, it would be an awareness challenge to convince people to get vaccinations.
According to him, since the country launched vaccinations in march 2021,it has received over 4 million doses of vaccinations such as Johnstone and Johnson (JJ), AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
In a separate interview, the Technical Officer On Covid 19 response for Africa Centre For Disease And Prevention (CDC), Yaya Kande, said Malawi needed to pull out its socks in scaling up the covid 19 vaccination uptake so as to cope up with other African states on achieving the targets.
“There is need for a comprehensive plan on working tools for the next three years so as to increase the numbers. The country needs to explore ways on what is making the interventions not to reach the targets, As CDC, we are ready to support the planned activities in terms of various resource support, ” he said.
The training was organized by Africa centre for disease control and prevention in partnership with the master card foundation and the ministry of health.
As of today 1,955,495 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and an estimated 4.4% of the total population has been fully vaccinated. Efforts are underway to increase vaccine uptake to reach a wider proportion of the population.
Since the first shipments, the country has now received a total of 4,469,720 million COVID-19 vaccine doses; 55% (2,459,820 doses) of these from COVAX, 16% (706,800 doses) from the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVATT), and 29% (1,303,100 doses) from bilateral deals and donations. Starting with one vaccine type — Astrazeneca — Malawi is now offering COVID-19 vaccination with three vaccines — Astrazeneca, Janssen, and Pfizer
Malawi rolled out the COVID-19 vaccine in a phased approach, starting with health care workers and other priority groups which included, immigration officers, National Defense Forces, prison warders, prisoners, teachers, those 60 years old and above, and people with underlying health conditions. However, the vaccine roll-out was challenged at several levels, resulting in low uptake.