COVID-19: Low uptake as Malawi destroys expired vaccine

Vaccine COVID

Malawi will destroy over 16,000 expired coronavirus vaccines donated to the Southern African country, a health official said Wednesday.

Malawi received 102,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs from the African Union last month but 16,400 were not administered before they expired.

“We will now destroy and dispose of (them),” Malawi’s health secretary Dr Charles Mwansambo told AFP.

Malawi launched its inoculation campaign in March with the aim of immunising 11 million people, or 60 percent of the population by year-end.

Less than half of the 530,000 doses donated by the COVAX vaccine sharing facility, the African Union and the Indian government have been administered.

The sluggish rollout is partially blamed on low uptake due to vaccine hesitancy.

“I am taking my time because there are many strange stories,” said 30-year-old Chipiliro Chilinjala, having lunch at a restaurant in the capital Lilongwe.

“I will wait to see if the people that got the initial vaccinations will have any reactions before I get mine.”

Vaccination rollouts have been particularly slow in Africa — the region least affected by the pandemic — where only around two percent of the world’s total number of shots have been administered to date.

The lag has been blamed on inadequate supplies, lack of financing and logistical problems.

“Our vaccination programme is struggling to get off the ground,” said Malawi immunologist Dr Gama Bandawe, suggesting the country could have used the expired vaccines.

Coronavirus cases surged in Malawi earlier this year after months of relatively low infection levels.

To date the country has recorded over 33,800 cases, of which at least 1,133 have been fatal.