A decision by India, the world’s largest producer of the Covid-19 vaccine to temporarily halt all exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine while prioritising domestic needs, could derail Namibia’s fight against the pandemic.
India has temporarily halted the export of Covid-19 vaccines, including millions of doses to the United Nation’s Covax facility, from which Namibia had procured vaccine doses.
Namibia has already made an advance payment of N$26 million to the scheme for vaccine doses but not a single procured dose has been delivered to the country. Instead, the country has taken delivery of donated vaccine doses from the Indian and Chinese governments.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe said any disruption in the supply chain of Covid-19 vaccines should be a concern to Namibia.
Some 190 countries under the Covax scheme are according to international reports affected by the temporary export freeze.
However, Nangombe said whether that decision will have an impact on Namibia is yet to be seen.
“We know India produces and distributes vaccines to the Covax facility for countries. For Namibia, we have not received any vaccine yet. We received a communication from the Covax facility that our vaccine [AstraZeneca] will be coming within three weeks. However, any disruption in the supply and distribution chain of Covid vaccine should be a concern to us,” Nangombe reacted.
World Health Organization (WHO) Namibia representative Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses was not available for comment yesterday.
Since January to date, Namibia has been waiting for its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines allocated through the Covax facility. Namibia has allocated a total budget of about N$583 million for Covid-19 vaccines under the deployment and vaccination plan, of which N$485 million will be for the actual procurement of vaccines.
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said this would enable Namibia to procure vaccines for an additional 40% of the population to attain a 60% vaccination coverage.
China has already donated 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and India has also donated 30 000 doses of the Covishield vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.
Namibia started its vaccination campaign last week by targeting mainly frontline workers in the Khomas and Erongo regions. However, by yesterday afternoon only 218 people in the country had been inoculated against Covid-19.
The Covax scheme, which is led by WHO, aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations.
According to reports, India’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, has delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca jab to several countries in recent days, including the UK and Brazil. India has exported more than 60 million vaccine doses to 76 countries so far, with the majority of these being the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
India’s decision comes as that country faces a surge in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday it recorded its sharpest daily rise this year, with more than 47 000 new cases and 275 deaths.
The Asian country has also opened up vaccinations for those over the age of 45 from 1 April, and officials expect demand for vaccinations to increase.
Blow… A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.