The Indian High Commission in Namibia has advised government to start rolling out the donated Covishield Covid-19 vaccine due to its limited shelf life. The high commission’s head of chancery, Vipul Bawa, said the Indian government would like to see the Covishield vaccine being used in Namibia soonest rather than later.
The consignment of 30 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, produced by the Serum Institute of India, arrived in Namibia on 20 March as a donation by that country’s government. AstraZeneca said in a statement last week that its product could be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months.
Executive director in the health ministry Ben Nangombe, meanwhile, told New Era upon enquiry yesterday the Covishield vaccine will expire in July.
He also assured the nation that the rollout of the vaccine would start tomorrow. Namibia started inoculating health and other frontline workers as well as those between 18-59 years of age in the Khomas and Erongo regions on 19 March in phase one of its vaccine roll-out plan due to end on 16 April 2021. This is being done with the 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine donated by the Chinese government.
These doses will expire in 2022, according to Nangombe. Only 1 215 people have been vaccinated in Namibia to date.
On the issue, that India has temporarily halted AstraZeneca vaccine exports, Bawa maintained the country has supplied these doses globally while undertaking its own domestic vaccination programme – one of the largest in the world, with over 60 million doses administered thus far.
India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine following the rise in domestic cases.
“While it continues to vaccinate its population against Covid-19, India also remains committed, as before, to supplying vaccine doses globally, including through Covax,” said Bawa. Approached for comment, WHO Namibia representative Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said the global health body has advocated strongly for vaccine equity and against vaccine nationalisation to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable have equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine and are protected from mild to severe cases of the disease.
“Unfortunately, the demand for the Covid-19 vaccine remains higher than the current supplies and this delays the deployment of the vaccine in the developing world.
“WHO remains committed to ensuring that all EUL Covid-19 vaccines are available through the Covax facility and will continue bilateral discussions with manufacturers and governments to expedite this process,” Sagoe-Moses said.