Malawi is set to proceed with its plan to import the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, President Lazarus Chakwera said on Sunday in an address to the nation.
The country expects to receive its first consignment of the vaccine at the end of February for roll-out in March. The batch will contain 1.5 million doses.
The roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine was on Sunday put on hold in South Africa after a study showed “disappointing” results against the South African variant of coronavirus.
The South African variant has been linked to a second wave of infections in Malawi, according to Fabrice Weissman of charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
However, President Chakwera, who says the vaccine costs less, also said that the strategy of limiting new infections offers the best chance against the disease.
He said the vaccine has an efficacy of between 60% to 65% efficacy which was still “high enough to save lives”, the Nation news website reports.
“The hardship of preventing new infections is better than the hardship of treating them,” he said.
Malawi has faced a resurgence of COVID-19 that is overwhelming the southern African country where a presidential residence and a national stadium have been turned into field hospitals in efforts to save lives.
President Lazarus Chakwera, just six months in office, lost two Cabinet ministers to COVID-19 in January amid a surge that led him to declare a state of national disaster in all of Malawi’s 28 districts.
Malawi has so far confirmed 27,195 coronavirus cases and 856 deaths according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.