Maputo — Mozambican private companies have acquired over 500,000 doses of vaccine against the Covid-19 respiratory disease, and are offering 120,000 of these doses to the government, Health Minister Armindo Tiago announced on Tuesday.
He explained that private companies could not obtain the vaccines on their own, and so it was imperative to establish a common platform, involving both the companies and the government.
By 31 May, more than 350 companies had registered to join this platform. With the money deposited in an account at the Bank of Mozambique, it will be possible to buy 512,000 doses of vaccine.
"In accordance with the initial agreement, 120,000 doses would be used by the government and the rest by the private sector", said Tiago. The justification for this is to allow companies to have their workers and their families vaccinated.
The number of doses that the government has received, or is in the process of receiving, has now risen to 860,000 - still a very long way short of meeting the government's target of vaccinating the entire Mozambican adult population, of around 16 million people.
Speaking after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet),Tiago also told reporters that the Health Ministry is still waiting for results from a South African laboratory of samples taken at random from Covid-19 positive patients, to check whether any of them are carrying the Indian variant of the coronavirus, regarded as more transmissible than the original strain.
400 samples were sent to the reference laboratory in South Africa in May. The first 200 analysed showed no sign of the Indian variant, but Mozambique is still waiting for the results from the other 200.
Tiago explained that the testing of the genotype of the virus "is a time-consuming process, which is why we don't have the results yet".
He added that, on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO), new strains of the coronavirus are no longer being referred to by the names of the countries where they supposedly originated, but by letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus what was previously called the Indian variant, is now known as the delta variant. The strain first detected in the United Kingdom, is now called the alpha variant.
Tiago added that the government s calling for the boosting of preventive measures against Covid-19, in light of the likely spread to Mozambique of a third wave of the coronavirus. The Health Ministry declared the end of the second wave in mid-April, but senor health officials regard the occurrence of a third wave as inevitable.
Tiago said that the third wave has now been detected in 11 African countries, including South Africa.
The Minister warned that the third wave is proving more severe (and hence more lethal) than the first or second waves. Citizens should therefore redouble preventive measures to delay the appearance and spread of the third wave in Mozambique.
"This is not just the government's responsibility", he said, "but the responsibility of all citizens, individually and collectively".