AstraZeneca finally arrives …as ministry misses vaccination target

Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

Namibia is set to get more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the much-awaited AstraZeneca expected to arrive in the country Friday morning.

According to Health Ministry Deputy Executive Director, Petronella Masabane, the consignment will be the first of three tranches of doses the country will be expecting. “First tranche of 24 000 doses will be landing. Next week expecting more and the rest of the allocation in May from COVAX, also exploring other pipelines,” Masabane said.

The arrival of the vaccine, which is being sourced under COVAX facility, comes more than three months after it was initially supposed to arrive in the country.

“The vaccines will be arriving early morning around 06hoo am at the Hosea Kutako Airport and will be transported to the Central Medical Stores,” according to Health and Social Services (MoHSS) Minister, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, who will be receiving the vaccine.

He told Windhoek Observer that “we never doubted that it was not going to come, the question was only when.”

The country is lagging behind its COVID-19 vaccination targets set for Phase1 which ends on Friday. In Phase 1, which begun on the 19th of March, was targeted to be completed by the 16th of April in Windhoek, Swakopmund and the Walvis Bay Districts.

Latest data from the MoHSS shows that only 3 587 vaccine doses have been administered since the rollout.

The Ministry’s Executive Director, Ben Nangombe, regarding the delay said “I think it’s more a question of response by the people. There are a number of factors, the social media vaccine hesitance and vaccine skepticisms.” He added that the ministry was expecting an increase in numbers when it rolls out the vaccination campaign in other parts of the country.

“I think the coming weeks we are going to see an increase in the number of people that are vaccinated. We said the first phase was to allow us to own our approaches, processes and activities. So far we have demonstrated that we are able to vaccinate people, we have trained our people and we have strengthened our logistics system. It was good preparation that we adopted this because going forward we are in a position to move forward without delay into the second phase. The second phase is going to continue,” Nangombe said.

The Ministry has announced that it has also ordered the Sputnik V from Russia whose date of arrival, according Shangula said he did not know because it depends on the supplier and when they develop the vaccine. “We wouldn’t know when the vaccine is going to come because it depends on the supplier when he gets the vaccine to send because the demand is higher than the supply. They supply as they develop. We are not the only ones asking for the vaccine. There’s someone with big pockets who is ordering for N$10 million and you only ordering N$ 2 million, you must be honest with yourself. You’ll always be at the tail end,” the Health Minister said.

“No, we can’t order every vaccine on the earth. We don’t have that money, we select on the basis of what we have already had and then build on that, ” he said on the ordering of the J&J vaccine.

Having already given more than 289,000 doses of the J&J vaccine to the country’s health workers, South Africa on Tuesday suspended giving this shots as a “precautionary measure” and the company delayed its European vaccine rollout following an FDA decision to pause the jabs while cases of a very rare blood clot are examined.

Namibia has thus far spent N$29 million as a deposit for the purchase of AstraZeneca , with N$484 million budgeted for procurement of the vaccines, which is part of N$583 million for the total proposed budget for Namibia’s Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccines.

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