More than 16,000 doses of vaccine have reached their expiration date and will be destroyed in Malawi, after arriving in the southern African country three weeks ago, the health minister said Wednesday.
Of the 102,000 doses sent by the African Union (AU), some 16,400 were not used and expired on Tuesday, Charles Mwansambo told AFP.
Of the total 530,000 doses received in the country via the Covax program, the Indian government, and the AU, all of which are AstraZeneca vaccine, 46% have been used so far, he said.
"We have used most of the vaccines sent by the AU. On Tuesday, when they expired, there were only 16,400 left that had not been used, which will now be destroyed and thrown away," he told AFP.
Since the first vaccinations in March, Malawi has only vaccinated 300,000 people out of the 11 million targeted, a target of some 60% of the population "to be sufficiently protected", according to the minister.
Chipiliro Chilinjala, 30 years old, met in a restaurant of the capital, drags his feet: "I take my time, many strange stories are circulating. I want to see the reactions of the first vaccinated people before I go", he confided to AFP.
Sociologist Innocent Komwa confirms that the apathy to get vaccinated is likely due to the strength of conspiracy theories and misinformation: "In Malawi, we have a lot of adults who are stuck in the contemplative phase, who could use a little push to make up their minds," he says.
"Unfortunately, the government and health officials have not done much to counter the fake news, the rumors, especially around AstraZeneca in Europe," he laments to AFP.
The immunologist Gama Bandawe fears the impact of these delays when the pandemic will regain strength, probably in the middle of the year, he believes. "We're expecting peaks in the next six to eight weeks. We're going to be in a situation where we really could have used these vaccines."