Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula yesterday told lawmakers all the Covid-19 vaccines currently available are acceptable to Namibia.
“The choice of the vaccine takes into consideration the availability of the vaccine, cold chain imperatives – and of course, the cost, amongst others,” he said.
Shangula’s remarks come shortly after South African authorities shelved plans to roll out the Indian-manufactured AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after preliminary trial data showed they offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from South Africa’s dominant coronavirus variant.
South Africa this week announced it will donate some of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the African Union. Namibia had hoped to receive the AstraZeneca by mid-February. This expected time of delivery has now been shifted to end of February, Shangula announced yesterday. Shangula said they are carrying out investigations to establish with certainty whether the new Covid-19 variant is present in Namibia and the extent of its prevalence. “In the meantime, our preparations for Covid-19 vaccine roll-out are ongoing. Studies are ongoing elsewhere to establish the safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca among persons who are more than 65 years old, who are below 18 years and among pregnant women,” he assured.
Shangula added the country will collaborate with Botswana in areas related to the procurement of vaccine, regulatory approval and delivery, as well as bilateral agreement for vaccination of citizens who reside in two countries.
Shangula said he was also disappointed with the misinformation and false claims against the safety and benefits of the vaccines to individuals. “Countries are scrambling to obtain vaccines for their citizens, and individuals in Europe and USA are competing to be vaccinated and protected against Covid-19. I call on the Namibian people not to be misled and to have faith in the government to safeguard their health,” he cautioned. He reiterated financial commitment was made to purchase doses sufficient to vaccinate 20% of the target population through the Covax facility, while additional vaccines will be procured to achieve 60% coverage.
“Namibia will procure vaccines to immunize at least 60% of its population against Covid-19. This is the minimum required for our country to achieve herd immunity. I have since received another letter from Covax facility, dated the 29 January 2021, stating that Namibia can expect to be distributed doses of AstraZeneca vaccine during mid or late February 2021, subject to WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL). The WHO Emergency Listing has now taken place,” said Shangula.