Local frontline workers, who were first to roll up their sleeves and get inoculated against Covid-19, have expressed delight to have been one of the first targeted populations to receive the much-anticipated jabs.
The Namibian government on Friday started rolling out its Covid-19 vaccination programme following the arrival of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government recently.
Deputy health minister Utjiua Muinjangue became the first person in Namibia to receive the shot, kicking off the vaccination campaign at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
As leaders of the national hospital’s infection prevention and control departments, doctors and nurses know best regarding the importance of immunisation.
A day before Namibia’s 31 independence celebrations, the country again received another donated 30 000 doses of Covishield vaccine from the Indian government.
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula announced the vaccine will be administered to persons who are 60 years and above.
Local specialist physician Dr Ishmael Katjitae was among the first to receive one of 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine by Friday morning, donated by the Chinese government.
He said his decision to get the vaccine is to give others the confidence that it is safe.
“People have been vaccinated for years, small children have been vaccinated and people have been vaccinating animals. There was no doubt that this thing has actually been working because we all know what happens if you don’t get vaccinated. To me, any vaccine that has gone under trial, which has been tested, is effective,” Katjitae confidently said.
In terms of the issue of the new Covid-19 variants and whether the manufactured and distributed vaccines will work or not, he explained these vaccines were prepared when there were no variants.
Therefore, he said, it is of no surprise that when they re-test these vaccines in the presence of a variant, it will be lesser effective.
He made reference to the AstraZeneca vaccine that Namibia plans to procure through the Covax scheme, which is seen as less effective.
“Yes, it is still effective but it is a bit lesser effective in preventing people from getting multiple diseases. The Jonhson & Jonhson vaccines are the same but the effectiveness was reduced to 50%. All these vaccines, especially the Johnson & Johnson was shown to be 80%-90% effective in preventing severe, critical illness and death. And that is what we want to have. Most of these vaccines, when they are going to be tested, evidence shows that they are going to prevent you from severe or critical illness,” he explained.
He assured that any vaccine will be able to produce early warning signs for the body to react before the virus begins causing havoc to the immune system and making one critically sick.
“There is no need to fear vaccination. This Sinopharm vaccine has been given to close to 80 million people and no one has actually died,” added Katjitae.
Dr Lahija Hamunjela said taking the vaccine is something she had to take for herself, her country and the development of the vaccine itself in Namibia.
She said it was time for Namibians to focus on the positive side of the vaccination rather than criticising it.
“It is not just to protect me but those around me should I get in contact with any Covid contact. If something is available, why not get it. People need to be educated to understand. It wasn’t painful getting the shot. The team is very professional. They explain to you everything and ask if you are ready to take the vaccine,” she noted.
Health worker Emi Komundanda said the process was smooth and fast. She indicated there were no challenges during the exercise.
Chinese nationals also showed up in large numbers to get vaccinated.
A Chinese national, who refused to be named, expressed gratitude towards the government of China for donating the vaccines.
“I also thank the Namibian government for having professional doctors and nurses in the whole service delivery chain. I am scared of injections, but I didn’t feel any pain. I feel no side effects. I hope Namibians can come and get vaccinated to have strong immune,” she encouraged.
Shangula cautioned to stop this pandemic, everyone needs to use all prevention measures available such as vaccines.
“Therefore, we encourage you to get vaccinated once you become eligible. The government of the Republic of Namibia is providing the Covid-19 vaccine; it is free of charge. You will still need to wear a face mask correctly and physically distance after getting each shot of the vaccine for now. As more vaccines become available, we will keep the nation updated, as the targeted population is expected to expand,” Shangula informed.