THE arrival of enough COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 20% of the Namibian population has been extended by two to three weeks.
The first consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the country acquired with the aid of the COVAX Facility has been delayed.
The Minister of Health and Social Service, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula while addressing the Namibian Nation from State House said that he received a letter from the facility that informed him about the delay.
The COVAX Facility was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to grant poorer countries access to viable amounts of the new vaccine.
“The first consignment of vaccines from the Covax Facility was expected to arrive in Namibia towards the end of January but will now only arrive during the second or third week of February,” he said.
According to Dr. Shangula, the COVAX Facility informed the Namibian health ministry that the country can expect to be distributed doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by mid to late February. The arrival of the consignment is, however, still subject to the WHO Emergency Use Listing.
“Apart from the Covax Facility, we are also in discussion with manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines in China, the Russian Federation, India, and the United States of America for additional vaccines supply to cover the remaining 40% of the population,” he said.
He said that the country has made a financial commitment to purchase doses sufficient to vaccinate 20% of the target population through the COVAX Facility and that mechanisms to ensure country readiness to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines have already been put in place.
In this regard, the National COVID-19 Deployment and Vaccination Plan have been developed and a Vaccine Taskforce was established.
“The Task Force continues to review the latest evidence, training needs of our health workers and all regulatory and legal, and safety frameworks to ensure a high-quality vaccination campaign. The Namibia Medical Regulatory Council is providing the necessary guidance and regulatory oversight for the process,” he said.
The health minister added that Namibia will collaborate with Botswana in areas related to the procurement of vaccine, regulatory approval of vaccines, delivery of vaccines, bilateral agreement for vaccination of citizens, sharing of evidence and best practice in vaccine deployment, technical exchange visits, and training, sharing surveillance reports, safety and reports of any Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) and other opportunities for collaboration as they emerge.
“Namibia will procure vaccines to immunize at least 60% of the population against COVID-19,” he said.
Dr. Shangula stated that he is disturbed by misinformation and false claims against the safety and benefits of the vaccines to individuals.
He said despite the misinformation countries are scrambling to obtain vaccines for their citizens and individuals in Europe, and the USA are competing to be vaccinated to be protected against COVID-19.
“I call on the Namibian people not to be misled and to have faith in the government,” he said.
Dr. Shangula said that the second wave of Covid-19 has further highlighted the imperative of ensuring that people comply with health measures.
“If we slip up and if we lower our guard, the consequences will be dire and even deadly. For this reason, we must all do our part to protect ourselves and our families. The power to defeat this pandemic is in our own hands,” he said.
The health minister also used the opportunity to thank all Namibians for their cooperation with authorities to battle the pandemic.
He pointed out that if all Namibians pull together in the same direction there will no longer be a need to maintain restrictive measures.
“Let us all work towards that goal,” he concluded.