Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago on Thursday warned society not to let down its guard against the Covid-19 respiratory disease in the expectation that a vaccine will shortly be available.
Speaking in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on the second and final day of a debate on the government's plan and budget for 2021, Tiago said "it is fundamental not to create false expectations about the vaccine against Covid-19. So we are recommending the maintenance of the preventive measures that have given the country the possibility of controlling the disease."
Those measures include social distancing, the regular washing of hands, the obligatory wearing of masks in public places, and restrictions on the number of people who can attend events.
Tiago added that the government has drawn up a plan to acquire, administer and monitor vaccines against Covid-19. Mozambique, he said, is part of COVAX, the international initiative that will allow rapid and equitable access to safe and effective vaccines that have been pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"Normally, collective vaccination mechanisms allow the sharing of risks and make a greater range of choice available", said Tiago. "So on 27 November our country submitted to COVAX our vaccination needs".
This would allow Mozambique to receive initially about six million doses. Currently, the government is drawing up a national vaccination strategy, and is defining the priority groups to be vaccinated.
He warned the deputies that vaccination might result in only partial protection, and that the protective effect of a vaccine could vary from individual to individual, depending on, for example, genetic factors.
He did not say when the vaccines might arrive in Mozambique: so far, the only country which has definitely ordered vaccines, and is due to start vaccination later this month, is the United Kingdom. The British regulatory authorities have judged the vaccine developed by the companies Pfizer and BioNtech as safe for use, and the UK government expects to roll out the vaccine to the most vulnerable groups, such as people over the age of 80, within a matter of days.
Tiago stressed that Mozambique has succeeded in delaying the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic. Initially, it was feared that the peak would be in April, with large numbers of infected people overwhelming the health service. But the strategy followed by the Health Ministry delayed the peak by five months.
The largest number of cases was reached on 28 September, when, in a single 24 hour period, 305 people were diagnosed with Covid-19. Since then the number of cases has been in decline.
"We managed to protect our health system", said Tiago. "We still have beds available in the Covid-19 isolation wards".