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Rural vaccination effort impeded

2021-09-01  Obrien Simasiku

Rural vaccination effort impeded

Obrein Simasiku

While government advocates and works towards herd immunity by attempting to vaccinate at least 60% of Namibians against Covid-19, people in rural areas are still hesitant to get the jab, citing already debunked theories, and complaining about the distance to health facilities.

“We don’t know what to believe anymore, because we are told once you take the vaccine, you are dying – and if you don’t, you are still going to die. We are confused,” these were some of the common words shared by residents of Oshikoto in remote areas. 

By 29 August, the Oshikoto region had 11 119 people who received their first doses and 5 684 who have received both doses of the available Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines. Oshikoto has around 124 395 people eligible for vaccination, with a population of around 200 000. They told New Era that they know how dangerous the virus is and the precautionary measures they can take to prevent them from contracting the virus. 

“Why would one walk a long distance to get injected with something you are not certain about?” they asked. “I really want to be vaccinated, but I am in doubt because of the information making rounds. We live in the bush; therefore, information we have been getting is conflicting. However, I have decided to wait and observe if people are going to die as a result of the vaccine,” stated Johannes Kafidi, a resident of Asino village in the Okankolo constituency.

Joining him is an equally willing but hesitant Elia Amukoto, who says his efforts to get vaccinated are derailed by distance, as the nearest clinic, Okankolo Health Centre, is situated more than 15 kilometres away. 

“We are already poor and suffering; how will I manage to walk that whole distance just for a vaccine – something that people don’t entirely trust. But if I ever come across health officials vaccinating, I will gladly get my jab,” stressed Amukoto.

Asino’s village is only accessible with four-wheel-drive vehicles due to sandy roads, of which the nearest place with proper roads is Onkumbula, about 10 kilometres away.

The community has, therefore, asked for increased mobile vaccination teams for remote areas so that correct information can be shared, as well as to bring the vaccination service closer to the masses. 

At a recent presentation in Omuthiya to launch the regional Kick Covid-19 out of Namibia campaign, the region’s acting chief medical officer, Dr Saad Rwehumbiza, said they have doubled efforts by increasing vaccination points and extending operating hours. 

He also said they are focusing more on mobile points, as well as usage of media, councillors and traditional authorities in urging the public to come forth.

The campaign aims to motivate and provide information on the vaccines and vaccination process, generate awareness, assist in dispelling myths and misinformation to help develop trust and confidence to improve acceptance and uptake of the vaccine. 

Councillor for Okankolo Hans Nambodi expressed happiness with the health ministry who has rolled out outreach vaccination programmes in the constituency. 

He also said the information on the ground suggests that many want to be vaccinated. 

“Even though we have a problem with road networks, including long distances to clinics, I am glad the ministry of health is making an effort to come to our people. The community has started organising themselves in groups, and when they reach a certain number, I will inform officials to come through for information sharing and vaccination – and this has been working,” said Nambodi.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is supporting countries to vaccinate at least 10% of populations by the end of September, 40% by the end of this year, and 70% by mid next year. 

Caption (Rural): No go… Residents in rural Namibia have largely shunned the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Photo: Emmency Nuukala

2021-09-01  Obrien Simasiku

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