Vaccines arrive in Mozambique as country prepares to vaccinate 20% of population by year end

  • 200,000 vaccines of two doses donated by China will be immediately administered to the health professionals
  • Six million more vaccines under Covax initiative may arrive in May, and 100,000 doses from India should be received “soon”
  • Mozambique will need to improve cold chain capacity at its airports, but otherwise has the capacity to distribute the vaccine
  • The whole eligible population should receive a vaccine by the end of 2022

At least 20% of the Mozambican population should be vaccinated against covid-19 by the end of 2021, Deputy National Director of Public Health, Benigna Matshinhe, told Zitamar News on Friday. Mozambique’s 90,399 health professionals are the first priority of the 6.4m people that make up the 20% target group, according to the Mozambique national deployment and vaccination plan submitted to the UN-led Covax initiative.

The 2021 vaccination plan, seen by Zitamar News though it is still being finalised, is divided into two phases, the first of which will cover 3% of the population, comprising of three groups: health workers, including community health workers and trainees from health training institutions; people aged 70 and over; and populations vulnerable due to chronic diseases and co-morbidities, such as hypertension, asthma, obesity, chronic obstructive lung disease, aged between 15 and 69. 

An estimated six million doses of vaccines under the Covax initiative, which were supposed to have arrived in the country between February and March, may now arrive in May, Benigna Matsinhe said on Monday.

Second phase

People with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are part of the second vaccination phase, which should cover 17% of the population, or around 5.5m people. Other groups, in this second phase, include people between 50 and 69 years old; key workers outside the health sector, like teachers, childcare workers, police officers, military, firefighters and emergency response personnel; and, finally, vulnerable socio-economic groups and other groups at higher risk, such as informal workers and public transport workers.

According to the Mozambican ministry of health, the choice of these groups was based in the sero-epidemiological studies conducted countrywide that provided crucial information on the locations of greatest transmission of covid-19 and on populations at risk. 

The plan doesn’t specify where most of these groups are located. However, data shows that the Greater Maputo Area, which includes the cities of Maputo and Matola as well as Boane and Marracuene, is the epicentre of the outbreak, with Maputo City accounting for more than 50% of confirmed cases in the country. The other ten provinces, with the exception of Sofala, have had lower transmission and lower death rates from covid-19.

According to the plan, the rest of the eligible population should be vaccinated by December 2022.

Vaccine availability and funding for implementation of the plan

So far Mozambique has 200,000 two-dose vaccines that were donated by China and that will be administered to the health professionals, Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário said on Wednesday, at a ceremony to receive the vaccines at Mavalane International Airport.

The country will soon receive another 100,000 doses from India, foreign minister Veronica Macamo told the press.

By participating in the Covax facility, Mozambique will get financing for sufficient doses of vaccine to immunize 20% of its population. However, Covax will not fund the operational costs of administering the vaccine. 

The US Embassy in Mozambique announced on Tuesday that the US government will provide $3.7m to help guarantee the country’s vaccine readiness per Covax requirements.  

This includes planning the delivery and distribution of the vaccines throughout Mozambique, and technical assistance in the provision of comprehensive medical treatment to patients with covid-19, including in the safe and effective utilization of oxygen.  

Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs Augusto Santos Silva said on Wednesday that Portugal has allocated a million vaccines to be sent to Portuguese speaking countries, as well as a generous budget to train health professionals to deal with the pandemic, and supply personal protective equipment and rapid tests. 

Cold chain capacity and vaccine distribution

Mozambique says its experience responding to previous outbreaks, such as polio, should help in its distribution of the covid-19 vaccine, although the target group for covid-19 is different to usual. 

Studies conducted by the ministry of health in January 2021 on cold chain capacity indicate that Mozambique has sufficient human resources and cold chain capacity at the national, provincial, district and health facility levels for distributing the first two phases of the covid-19 vaccine around the country. There could be bottlenecks at the country’s airports, due to a lack of refrigeration capacity at the terminals. However, the intention is for vaccines to be put straight on waiting trucks, in order to be transported to appropriate storages, Matshinhe told Zitamar.

Mozambique plans to submit a specific cold chain equipment application under the Covax initiative, in order to boost the refrigeration capacity at Maputo, Beira and Nampula airports — or potentially Nacala — which will be the main points of entry for the vaccines.

From these three regional entry points, vaccines will be distributed to 10 provincial depots, and from these to 154 district depots, to then be delivered at the level of the health facility.

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