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Malawi runs out of coronavirus vaccines as second jabs due

A medical staff member wearing protective gear holds a coronavirus sample of a resident at a drive-through screening and testing facility at the port city of Karachi. Rizwan TABASSUM - AFP

Delays in coronavirus vaccine shipments to Malawi have caused health facilities to run out of doses as hundreds are due to receive a second shot, the health minister said Saturday.

The southern African country has so far received 300 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United Nations, 102 000 from the African Union and 50 000 donated by India.

Inoculations started in April and the country was expecting a second UN shipment of 900 000 by the end of May, four weeks before the first vaccinated Malawians would be due a second dose.

But Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo said that batch had been delayed by a recent surge in coronavirus cases in India, the world’s main AstraZeneca supplier, which forced the country to temporarily halt major vaccine exports to meet local demand.

“The situation in India has delayed the supply,” Kandodo told AFP on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would only arrive in July or August.

Hundreds of people seeking to get vaccinated were turned away from Malawi’s main Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital Lilongwe this week.

“The hospital has told us that there is nothing they can do because they simply do not have vaccines,” taxi driver Geoffrey Ngwale told AFP on Friday, distraught by the inability to receive a second dose on time.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned in April that India’s vaccine supply delay would undermine inoculation plans on the continent.

Africa has been slower than other regions in immunising its population against coronavirus.

Only two percent of Africans had received at least one vaccine jab at the start of June, compared to 24 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organisation.

Malawi hopes to inoculate around 11 million people – 60 percent of the population – by the end of 2020.

But just over 380 600 people in Malawi have received a first shot so far, of which more than 33 200 are now fully vaccinated.

Widespread vaccine hesitancy has also hindered the roll out.

The government was forced to destroy 17 000 expired vaccines last month due to low turnout.

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