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Covid curve flattens …false sense of security chokes vaccine programme

2022-03-11  Paheja Siririka

Covid curve flattens …false sense of security chokes vaccine programme

Namibia has witnessed a substantial decrease in fresh Covid-19 infections and deaths, as the country marks two years of battling the virulent pandemic. 

With the ministry of health reporting a dwindling number of daily Covid-19 positive cases for the last few weeks and only a few deaths, a false sense of security has descended upon Namibians with vaccinations stuttering to a halt. Several isolation facilities have been closed as there are no patients in them and the number of cases constantly dropping and some areas not reporting significant cases.

This was revealed by the respective health directors in some regions with the spotlight on the Covid-19 situation on the ground. 

Oshikoto health director Joshua Nghipangelwa said the situation in the region is calm, as they have not reported many positive cases while in some days, there are none.

He said although the cases have been reducing with time, they have not let their guards down.

He said in the region, there are 81 beds ready to accommodate severe cases. 

“We have units in the region. We have 51 beds at Onandjokwe, 14 at Omuthiya and 16 at Tsumeb. If the situation becomes dire, we have the capability of adding 30 or so,” he said.

Nghipangelwa said the region has three patients using those beds at Omuthiya, with one positive case and two suspects. 

“All the cases are stable. I should also point out that we have enough oxygen supply, so we are good there,” he said.

He was grateful for those who have followed Covid-19 protocols compared to other groups in the district.

“I am thankful to the senior citizens, we have noticed they are the most complying ones when it comes to adhering to Covid-19 regulations, they sanitise and constantly wear masks and try their level best to maintain social distance,” praised Nghipangelwa. Another group he was happy about was school going children because of the strict protocols in place at the institutions, which includes sanitising before entering premises and enforced rules of wearing masks. 

He could, however, not say the same about other middle-aged Namibians in the region who are partially following the rules.

“Let us continue following regulations and avoid big crowds,” he stated.

The region is also working closely with traditional leaders and councillors to spread more awareness on the pandemic.

He said: “Since the situation is calm, people are hesitant and anti-vaxxers’ impact is the one playing a major role and leading to people not getting vaccinated. Let’s get vaccinated. We should not be relaxed with following rules and regulations.”



Another regional health director who is concerned about vaccine resistance is Tomas Ukola of Khomas.“The biggest challenge
we have now
 is anti-vaccine campaigns aimed at discouraging people to get vaccinated. These anti-vaccine campaigners are spreading misinformation about vaccines but we continue to counter such myths,” he said.

The Omaheke region has two healthcare isolation facilities and one non-healthcare isolation facility.  The healthcare isolation facilities have 20 beds, of which eight are classified as high care beds while the non-healthcare isolation facility is comprised of 23 beds and there is an open possibility to engage more private establishments if required.

“There are no patients in any of our isolation facilities, they are closed,” said health director Jeremia Shikulo.

On the issue of inoculation, he said the critical shortage of transport has been a challenge in ensuring that social mobilisation and vaccination teams reach all corners of the region.

“The infrastructural capacity has also been a challenge, although several upgrades (namely isolation facilities, oxygen tanks, mortuaries have now been completed, improving our health facilities’ infrastructural capacity to respond and manage the Covid-19 pandemic or any other disease outbreaks,” stated Shikulo.

Kavango East acting regional health director John Kapumburu said the biggest issue has always been people not willing to be vaccinated and members of the community believing in conspiracy theories and convincing others not to get vaccinated.

While the World Health Organisation set a target of at least 10 000 vaccinations per day for Namibia to reach herd immunity, the rate at which Namibians have been getting inoculated is worryingly slow. 

In the month between 8 February and 8 March, only 13 459 people had their first shot. By 8 February 2022, a total of 422 486 people have had their first jab against Covid-19. A month later, 435 945 was the figure recorded for the total number of people who had their first vaccination. 

By 8 March, 376 864 Namibians have been fully vaccinated, translating to 26% of the target population. 

“Teachers at some schools are influencing learners and this has turned into a big challenge. Learners believe everything teachers say. Some churches are also doing the same and telling congregants not to be inoculated,” he said.

 “There is a lot of selective hearing from the public on this matter. The health ministry’s advisory states: You can get vaccinated and still get infected with Covid-19, the purpose of the vaccination is so that you don’t get severely ill once infected. Namibians are selective to this and refuse to be vaccinated because it doesn’t stop infection.” He said although statistics have dropped, one thing remains universal in the country: The majority of those in the ICU are not vaccinated.

“Schools were disrupted, jobs were lost, people died but Namibians are still not taking the pandemic seriously. We need to get many people vaccinated and contemplating suing the government because of the vaccination,” he stated.

In just under two years, Namibia lost 4 014 people to Covid-19.

Kapumburu said: “There is a group handing out pamphlets in local languages and telling people not to be vaccinated, social media is also hampering the information around Covid-19, many are following these unverified opinions on social media. Others are fighting with the government because of voluntary vaccination.”


Get vaccinated

With the 13 March 2022 marking the second anniversary of Covid-19 in Namibia, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told New Era there is a need for community leaders to encourage people in their areas to get vaccinated. 

“We need people who are leaders in any area of their lives to speak to the people they guide. We need to work together to make Namibia safer. We trust those around us, so we must speak out and share factual information. Covid-19 vaccination is safe and effective. Now is the time to get vaccinated,” said Brian Baker, CDC Namibia country director. 

 “We are seeing few cases of Covid-19 detected in Namibia and this is good news. The impact of vaccination and prevention measures are working and helping to stop the spread of infection. But we have seen that this virus has very clear waves.”

World Health Organisation’s Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said Namibians should take advantage of this ‘calmer period’ now and get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Government reviewed its national vaccine deployment plan for the effective rollout of the vaccination programme ensuring that the services reach all including those in hard-to-reach areas,” he said.

He added that the government with WHO support and other partners, also plan to intensify its Covid-19 communication interventions by targeting more eligible population groups, including the most vulnerable. 


2022-03-11  Paheja Siririka

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