Helen Noviwa and millions of other health workers across the world have been risking their lives to treat those suffering from COVID-19. They have worked long and distressing hours while hospital admissions increased. Today there is hope, that there could be an end to the pandemic.
“It hurts to see people die after doing everything you could to save them. It hurts to also know that the power to save them is not in your hands. I think this vaccine is that power which will help us save lives. I am not only relieved but empowered to do more,” said nurse Helen after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
After months of planning, waiting, public speculation and even some misinformation, the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out in Malawi, beginning with the vaccination of the President himself.
His Excellency President Lazarus Chakwera said, “We must take this vaccine to ensure that everyone is protected from COVID-19. We must take this vaccine to protect health workers who risk their lives to care for COVID-19 patients. We must take this vaccine to protect teachers from infection so that they can continue the work of educating tomorrow’s leaders.”
UNICEF has been a key partner for the Government of Malawi in the COVID-19 response, providing treatment supplies, testing kits, protective equipment and supporting the Government to ensure access to critical services for children such as education and protection. And now UNICEF is coordinating the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility, with Malawi as one of the early recipients of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines.
UNICEF Malawi Representative Rudolf Schwenk said he was proud of UNICEF’s role and to witness the roll out in Malawi. “The vaccine is safe; it will help us on the path to end the pandemic. Going forward, we must continue to build trust and confidence in vaccination.”
Daisy Simeza, Chief Nursing Officer at Mzuzu Central Hospital, confirms that the vaccine is safe. "I just got the COVID-19 vaccine. I am feeling okay, nothing unusual. I am urging frontline workers and those with underlying conditions to get vaccinated for our wellbeing."
Over 90 per cent of Malawi’s population identifies with some religion. Faith leaders, like traditional leaders are influential in society. Archbishop Thomas Msusa said over the past few weeks, he had been telling his church members to get the vaccine when it comes. “You know God answers in different ways, and I believe this vaccine is an answer to our cry and prayers to God,” said the Catholic Archbishop after getting the jab.
Minutes after getting the vaccine, Malawi’s Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima said "We hope the example the President and I have set today by being the first to take the vaccine will inspire many Malawians to do the same when it is rolled out to a larger scale."
Malawi expects to receive 1.4 million doses of the COVAX facilitated vaccine by May 2021. UNICEF Malawi continues to work with traditional leaders and faith leaders to address myths around COVID-19 and vaccines as well as promote preventive measures.