Malawian UK Nurses Association to hold webinar to demystify wrong apprehensions of COVID-19 vaccine

* There is general hesitancy on COVID-19 vaccine

* The reluctance or refusal of vaccine is one of the threats to global health.

* Webinar speakers are both specialists in immunology and infectious diseases

* When individuals are well informed they make informed decisions

* They get equipped to educate others

By Duncan Mlanjira

Malawian UK Nurses Association, an embodiment of like-minded Malawian nurses based in the UK, is set to hold an online conference (webinar) on Friday, January 22 aimed at demystifying wrong apprehensions of COVID-19 vaccine.

The speakers will be Dr. Maggie Nyirenda-Nyang’wa and Dr. Mas Chaponda — both specialists in immunology and infectious diseases, who are based and practising their profession in the UK.

Gladstone, MUNA president

The Malawian UK Nurses Association’s president, Charity Gladstone said in an interview that they have been inundated to organise this webinar following concerns and fears about COVID-19 vaccination.

“There is general hesitancy on COVID-19 vaccine,” she said in an interview. “The reluctance or refusal of vaccine is one of the threats to global health.

“A large percentage of Malawians are what is termed as black minority ethnicity group (BAME). Evidence demonstrates that BAME are likely to get severe form of illness and likely to die.

“The aim of this webinar is to provide credible culturally sensitive information with regards to COVID-19 vaccine and answer questions to allay fears.

“Most importantly this webinar has been organised to equip the public with knowledge about COVID-19 vaccine.

“When individuals are well informed they make informed decisions and are equipped to educate others. So in a nutshell, we aim to demystify myths of vaccine.”

She took cognizance that COVID-19 has globally affected 93 million people globally, with over 3 million in UK and that nurses and doctors — as frontline critical key workers in the National Health Care Service in UK and all over the world — are at high risk of being infected and dying from COVID-19 infections.

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“COVID-19 also has a significant impact on families due to its complications — death, loss of jobs, loss of income and, for those shielding, high levels of anxiety.”

Issues to be discussed include general information about COVID-19 and vaccination; pathophysiology; complications; types of vaccine and dynamics and importance of vaccination.

Dr. Kumwenda-Nyang’wa

One of the webinar speakers, Dr. Kumwenda-Nyang’wa — who is a consultant paediatrician with specialist interest in infectious diseases, immunology and allergy — had her COVID-19 vaccine taken on January 2.

She said she decided to undergo the vaccine (Pfizer BioTench the mRNA) because COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted people of black and ethnic minorities in the West — so had a risk factor of ethnicity.

“As a consultant paediatrician working in the frontline — in emergency department, wards and out-patients, I am exposed daily. I have looked after several patients with COVID-19, which is a much higher risk.

“I need the vaccine to boost my immune system to have a robust antibodies against the Coronavirus so that if I am exposed I can fight it or get a mild disease.”

Dr. Kumwenda-Nyang’wa having her vaccine

Her vaccine process was captured on video and posted on social media with the statement: “I’m excited to share that I had my first COVID-19 vaccine today! I’m thankful for the opportunity to access this game changer as a frontline worker.

“I’m aware there are many individuals in the high risk groups and  medical colleagues who do not  know when they will get the vaccine.

“This is not just for me but perhaps more importantly it is to make all of us safe. When you get the chance, please go and get vaccinated.”

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She explained in an interview that the video was done because in her  department they have a number of black and minority ethnicities (BAME), who were reluctant to getting the vaccine.

“I have done series of talks to raise awareness of COVID-19 diagnosis; it’s impact on BAME community; the immune response to COVID and why it has been a challenge to achieve herd immunity — hence the need for vaccination.

“The video was just to encourage the people I have been encouraging all along. Lots of people at work — nurses, doctors, admin staff, clerks, receptionists and medical students — were asking me questions. So the video helped answer groups of people at once.”

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She says she has the passion for children and treated many who had hyperinflammatory syndrome temporarily associated with COVID-19 called PIMS TS or MIS-C.

“Children who were healthy prior to getting COVID-19 and their many risk factor was sex, being BAME and obese — which really made me feel sad.

“Some have long term consequences like heart aneurysms and need long term medication and follow up. One can’t help but do something — dispelling myths and encouraging people to do all they can.

“Public health measures — social distancing, washing hands are helpful but we need other measures such as vaccination.”

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In addition to her clinical/research portfolio at University Hospital Lewisham, which has focused on diagnosis and management of infectious diseases including COVID-19, Dr. Kumwenda-Nyang’wa is also a visiting lecturer in Global Child Health at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) — focussing on paediatric HIV and global child health.

She is from Rumphi District and says she shall finally return home as she is also an honorary visiting lecturer at College of Medicine (COM) where she teaches immunology to paeds registrars in Paediatric Department.

She also focusses on paediatric infectious diseases and immunology with COM as well as on evaluation of innovative HIV diagnostic techniques for detection of HIV infection in children in resource limited settings.

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Dr Nyirenda-Nyang’wa is also a Malawi HIV Implementation Research Scientist Training (MHIRST) research fellow. Her research studies span the themes of global health and implementation research.

She is currently collaborating with COM’s infection and immunity team on optimization and validation of innovative point of care tests for diagnosis of COVID-19 in limited resource setting.

A Christian, wife and mother of two children and passionate about science and mentoring the next generation of scientists, Dr Nyirenda-Nyang’wa has implemented various charitable activities in Malawi.

Malawian UK Nurses Association (MUNA) was formed in June, 2020 and registered as charitable company in September 2020 as a non-profiting organisation.

It promotes its members’ welfare by enhancing their living and working standards and act as a catalyst to achieve excellence in Nursing Education and development in the UK and Malawi.

It also contributes to a globally competitive workforce in liaison with local and international partners.

Other activities it is involved in include working with other stakeholders (NGOs/agencies/individuals) in carrying out research, or health needs assessments that can inform policy, practice and allocation of resources.

It networks with other nursing associations in diaspora and around the globe; participates in research and development and supports training for MUNA members in the UK.

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It also supports training for nurses in Malawi as well as participate in investigations in health care issues. 

Gladstone added that MUNA fundraises to develop a strong financial resource base to enable efficient planning, implementation and ongoing evaluation of projects in Malawi and the UK.

“We also support charitable causes for Malawi; develops links with other agencies (governmental and non-governmental) and applies for grant/funding to support development projects in Malawi.

“We convene once a year for a celebratory annual general conference to celebrate achievements as well as review our activities, resources, budget and goals.”

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Gladstone said MUNA also aspires to participate in publicising and protecting Malawi’s heritage; promoting the country’s tourism and offers evidence-based advice and signpost for their stakeholders to the relevant health system agencies in matters related to Malawi.

Other MUNA executive members include Patrick Vundule as vice-president; Martin Masangano & Charlotte Kamundi (secretary); Joyce M’bwana & Patricia Liyao (treasurer).

The Board of Trustees include Ellen Nkhata as chairperson, Tony Phri (financial director) and Augustine Chipungu (secretary) with other trustees as Patrick Vundule, Gladstone, Brenda Malinki, Dr. Wanangwa Namelo and Agnes Mwenifumbo.

Dr. Emmie Malewezi, Tidziwe Malinki, Chifundo Makuta, Sala Kamkhosi Khulumula are in education & projects with Susan Msatida, Stella Mwanza & Clement Ndau in fundraising team.

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