Blantyre, Malawi — The Malawi government and the World Health Organization launched a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Monday in 10 of the country’s 29 districts. This is partly in response to new cases confirmed in the past three weeks in several districts across the country.
Nsanje District in southern Malawi currently leads in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded this year.
George Mbotwa, spokesperson for the district health office, said the district has registered 17 new cases in the past three weeks and some are health workers.
“Initially there were two, but we had up to eight cases that were health workers,” he said. “Some of them have now been confirmed as negative, and others are being followed up to ensure that they are fully recovered before they can resume work.”
By Monday, Malawi cumulatively recorded 89,202 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,686 deaths, since the first cases were confirmed in the country in April 2020.
Malawi’s Ministry of Health says the new vaccination campaign will help boost the number of people getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination rates in some areas of Malawi are as low as 40%.
It also says the WHO-funded campaign would help avoid waste of the vaccine as was the case in 2020 when the government destroyed nearly 20,000 expired AstraZeneca doses.
Many of those doses expired due to vaccine hesitancy amid concerns of its safety and efficacy.
However, recent government public health campaigns on the importance of COVID-19 shots have helped defeat that hesitancy.
Mary Chawinga, a mother of two of Machinjiri Township in Blantyre, said she has had the vaccine and is awaiting a booster.
“And I am ready to take my children, because prevention is better than [a] cure they say,” Chawinga said. “You never know how the wave will be like this time around considering the way it was way back in 2020. We have had it in 2021, and now this is 2024.”
Another mother of two, Habeeba Nyasulu, said she received the COVID-19 doses during the first campaign and encourages others to get the shot.
“I know that we are not safe until everyone is safe,” she said. “So, let others also receive the vaccine. I know that the vaccine does not prevent us from getting infected, but it helps us when we contract it not to be critically ill.”
Maziko Matemba is a community health care ambassador in Malawi, said the COVID-19 threat is still present in the country.
“Malawi didn’t vaccinate a required number of people against COVID-19, because the targeted population was about 11 million Malawians,” Matemba said. “But we were less than half about 2 or 3 million Malawians who were able to get vaccinated.”
Matemba said the country now needs to have the vaccine in the right places and encourage more people to get vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health says the new campaign targets 10 of the country’s 29 health districts that have recently recorded new cases. These include Machinga, Blantyre, Dowa, Mzimba and Nsanje districts.