Lilongwe, 5 March 2021 - Today, Malawi received COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO. This is a historic step towards the goal of COVAX to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. The delivery is part of a first wave of arrivals in Africa, and the first tranche of allocations for Malawi that will take place in the coming months and year through the COVAX Facility.
The COVAX Facility shipped 360,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India from Mumbai, India, to Lilongwe, Malawi, arriving on the evening of 5 March. The arrival in Lilongwe marks a milestone for Malawi in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over 1000 lives and created a heavy burden on health facilities.
The Government of the Republic of Malawi has also received 360,000 bundled syringes and 3,625 safety boxes for safe disposal of syringes for COVID 19 vaccination through the COVAX Facility. An additional 2.1 million and 21,600 safety boxes have been dispatched by sea for Malawi arriving mid-March.
The Government of the Republic of Malawi has identified priority groups who will be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These include health care workers, including those working in the private sector, who are at higher risk of COVID 19 infection than the general population due to the nature of their work, and more likely to be affected by COVID-19. Also included in phase one are police, immigration, Malawi Defence Force, prison warders, prisoners, teachers, those 60 years and above, and people with underlying conditions.
The WHO Representative for Malawi, Dr. Nonhlanhla Dlamini said "WHO acclaims and congratulates Malawi for preparing the country for the deployment of the vaccines whose arrival we have witnessed today. To achieve their timely and successful introduction, it took a multisectoral collaboration across many sectors. WHO reiterates the purpose of the COVAX facility which is to ensure fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines regardless of a country's wealth status. The deliveries mark the start of what will be the largest, most rapid and complex global rollout of vaccines ever known in history."
"Now that the vaccines are in the country, it is of utmost importance to start vaccinating the intended recipients and WHO is more than ready to continue providing the necessary support for this important endeavour" she added.
The World Health Organization country office in Malawi has been working with Expanded Program on Immunization of the Ministry of Health from the outset in all activities that led to successful application for COVID19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility. Some of the activities included provision of technical support to assess country's readiness to introduce COVID-19 vaccine through preparation and submission of a monthly vaccine introduction readiness assessment tool. The WHO also provided technical support in the engagement with the Malawi Immunization Technical Advisory Group that provided recommendations regarding priority target groups and the type of vaccine to be used. Furthermore, WHO provided technical support in the preparation of the VIRAT and development of the National Deployment Vaccination Plan (NDVP) and the Cold Chain Equipment Assessment Report.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) -- working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
"We will not end the pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "Today is a major first step towards realizing our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it's just the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do with governments and manufacturers to ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year."
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said, "COVAX's mission is to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as quickly as possible by enabling global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Today's delivery takes us another step closer to this goal and is something the whole world can be proud of. Over the coming weeks, COVAX must deliver vaccines to all participating economies to ensure that those most at risk are protected, wherever they live. We need governments and businesses now to recommit their support for COVAX and help us defeat this virus as quickly as possible,"
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI said: "This is a landmark moment in our efforts to get life-saving vaccine to the world. The fact that we now have multiple safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 developed in record time is testament to the scientific community and industry rising to the challenge of this pandemic. With this shipment we also see the global community, through COVAX, responding to the challenge of delivering these vaccines to those who need them most. Let us celebrate this as a moment of global solidarity in the struggle against the pandemic. But there is still much to do. With the increased spread of COVID-19 variants, we have entered a new and less predictable phase of the pandemic. It is crucial that the vaccines we have developed are shared globally, as a matter of the greatest urgency, to reduce the prevalence of disease, slow down viral mutation, and bring the pandemic to an end."
"Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard. With the first shipment of doses, we can make good on the promise of the COVAX Facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the race for life-saving vaccines," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. "In the days ahead, frontline workers will begin to receive vaccines, and the next phase in the fight against this disease can begin -- the ramping up of the largest immunization campaign in history. Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the billions of children and families affected around the world."
For several months, COVAX partners across the world have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. They have been especially active in working with some of the world's poorest countries: those that will benefit from the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative financial mechanism to help secure global and equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.
In order for doses to be delivered to COVAX Facility participants via this first allocation round, several critical pieces must be in place, including confirmation of national regulatory authorization criteria related to the vaccines delivered, indemnification agreements, national vaccination plans from AMC participants, as well as other logistical factors such as export and import licenses.
As participants fulfil the above criteria and finalize readiness preparations, COVAX will issue purchase orders to the manufacturer and ship and deliver doses via an iterative process. This means deliveries for the first round of allocation will take place on a rolling basis and in tranches.
COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment.
Communications Officer, WHO Malawi
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