The United States under COVAX has donated the first consignment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Malawi in a bid to provide equitable access to COVID-19 shots worldwide.
The arrival of 302,000 doses comes a few weeks after Malawi announced it will start inoculating its citizens with several COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to protect more of its population amid growing infections.
The nation’s Health Minister, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, says the move aims to fill the gap created by the scarcity of the Britain-made AstraZeneca vaccines the country has been using.
While speaking to reporters in Lilongwe, Chiponda sought to offer reassurances that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe.
“And most of the countries in Europe, in America and indeed in Africa, have used Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And it is proven that it is indeed providing much-needed immunity [against COVID-19],” said Chiponda.
Apart from the vaccines manufactured in the West, Malawi has also used vaccines produced in China and Russia. This brings the number of vaccine doses Malawi has received so far through COVAX to more than 850,000.
The charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Malawi, Jeremy Neitzke said the recent donation is part of the U.S. government’s global vaccine-sharing strategy, which aims to provide at least 80 million doses to countries most affected by the pandemic, including at least 25 million to African countries.
“The first tranche of U.S. government commitment to Africa is 15 million doses, of which these 300,000 are arriving today. We are working with our partners here in Malawi, the Ministry of Health, and across the continent with the African Union and the African CDC to deliver vaccines,” he said.
Health Minister Chiponda said the vaccine has given Malawi hope of reaching its target of vaccinating 60 percent of its people by December 2022.
Currently, the country has only vaccinated 0.2 percent of the targeted 11million people.
Malawi has recently faced continuous vaccine shortages largely owing to huge demand as infections rise. COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health has said that since Saturday, Malawi has confirmed 481 cases with 29 deaths. The U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global pandemic, says Malawi currently has about 55,700 cases and 1,805 deaths.
The government is advising people who received one jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine not to combine it with the Johnson & Johnson shot, which is a single-dose vaccine.
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