The Namibian government said it was working hard to procure and secure additional Covid-19 vaccines as the country now aims to inoculate up to 80% of the population to reach coronavirus herd immunity.
Namibia is yet to receive its procured vaccine doses, sourced through the Covax scheme, with the United Nations-backed facility only expected to deliver the doses within three weeks.
At the moment, the country is administering the Chinese-donated Sinopharm vaccine to citizens under the age of 60, while the Covishield vaccine doses, donated by the Indian government, will be rolled out as of today. “In addition to ongoing engagements with the Covax facility, we have reached out to the Africa Medicines Supply Platform (AMSP) as well as manufacturers of vaccines in China, the Russian Federation, India, and the United States of America, to secure more Covid-19 doses,” health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula announced yesterday during a televised Covid-19 public briefing at State House.
The scramble for Covid-19 vaccines has also been boosted by South Africa’s announcement that it would start manufacturing the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, which will also be supplied to African Union member states.
The vaccine will be manufactured by pharmaceutical company Aspen at its Eastern Cape facility, and will produce 30 million vaccine doses for South Africa in April alone. Shangula said government has welcomed the development.
Data shows that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 67% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and 85% effective in preventing severe disease. The company said it had reached a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust to supply up to 220 million doses.
The trust will also have the option to order an additional 180 million doses, for a total of 400 million doses through 2022. The agreement comes as Africa is experiencing a slow vaccine rollout, an increase in cases, and concerns over new coronavirus variants.
On his part, President Hage Geingob thanked China and India for their South-South cooperation and solidarity displayed in a time of need. China donated 100 000 vaccine doses, while India donated 30 000 doses to Namibia.
“Thank you very much for this support. It is in the hour of need that one knows who his or her true friends are. Once more, thank you very much,” he applauded.
He also cautioned those speaking ill of the donated vaccines to stop such practice and embrace the vaccination exercise. “We don’t want the Chinese to get a wrong impression. It is a serious matter. It’s a matter of life or death. We have to be careful not to send wrong messages to our friends helping us. Let us appreciate when people are doing favours for us,” Geingob noted.
The Sinopharm vaccine was rolled out on 19 March 2021, while Covishield will be rolled out today as part of phase one of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Phase two will commence on 19 April 2021.
Meanwhile, Shangula added that through innovative approaches, consultations are ongoing to bring onboard resources from registered private medical aid funds to contribute to the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
“The aim is to make it possible for members and dependents to receive vaccination through their medical aid funds. The ministry is also working on a framework to facilitate the importation of Covid-19 vaccines by entities, other than the Ministry of Health and Social Services. More on this initiative will be communicated and shared with the public in due course,” he said.
Shangula commended law enforcement officers for their tireless efforts to ensure compliance with public health measures. “With the addition of vaccination to our arsenal, we are optimistic that we shall prevail over Covid-19.”
Meanwhile, President Geingob announced yesterday the current 22h00-04h00 curfew will remain in place until 30 April. Public gatherings will, however, increase to 100 people for both outdoor and indoor events. Restaurants, bars, and shebeens will be permitted to extend trading hours for liquor up to 22h00 between Monday and Saturday. The sale of alcohol on Sundays and public holidays is prohibited.
Namibians studying abroad will be exempt from paying for Covid-19 tests upon entry or departure. Proof to this effect must be provided.
Frequent travellers returning within three days following their departure from Namibia are allowed to re-enter the country using the negative SARS COV-2 PCR or Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Test (AgRDT) test result they used on departure.