Unicef on its website says, "this is a historic step 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 continue 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 which has arrived on the evening of March 5. 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 syringes 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, teachers, prison warders, prisoners, those 60 years and above, and people with underlying conditions.
“The COVID-19 vaccine has come at a right time as it will be used as an added tool to the strategies that my Ministry has put in place to reduce and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our country. The COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out to help to reduce deaths, the risk of hospitalization and severe diseases from COVID-19.
"I would like to request those that are eligible to receive the vaccine in the first phase to ensure that they utilize this opportunity and get vaccinated,” said Honourable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, MP, Minister of Health.
The WHO Malawi Representative Dr Nonhlanhla Dlamini said, “WHO congratulates Malawi for preparing the country for the deployment of the vaccines whose arrival we have witnessed today. To achieve the 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 only way out of this crisis is to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are affordable and accessible to all countries. Vaccination should be available all around the globe and people from less wealthy countries should not be left behind in the race to be protected. At UNICEF, we are committed to making this happen. As the largest vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF is coordinating and supporting the procurement, international freight, and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines for the COVAX Facility. It is a proud moment for everyone, and I must congratulate the Government of Malawi – especially the Ministry of Health – for the tireless work that went behind the scenes to make this happen and protect the people of Malawi,” said UNICEF Malawi Representative Rudolf Schwenk.
For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting Government 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 authorisation criteria related to the vaccines delivered, indemnification agreements, national vaccination plans from Advance Market Commitment participants, as well as other logistical factors such as export and import licenses.
As participants fulfil the above criteria and finalise 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 is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
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.