COVID-19 vaccines are arriving soon; are we ready?

The rich countries of the world are already receiving their COVID-19 vaccines. Many have inoculated millions of their citizens so far. That won’t happen here; we can’t afford it, and we are not producing the vaccine locally. The ministry of health’s announcement indicated that vaccine doses for 20 percent of the population (or about 508,000 people) could start in February. Namibia must handle the entire process with effectiveness, fastidiousness, trained workers, and discipline. We cannot afford to mess this up.

We assume that our health officials are conquering the logistics of maintaining the extreme cold required for the doses’ storage. We cannot have our people ‘knocking off’ for the night and leaving the vials in basic fridges until tomorrow morning. Those vaccines would be useless should they fall below the necessary freezing temperatures.

In Namibia, it would not be a shock to learn that there were loads of vaccine left on the tarmac at the airport in the summer heat while they wait to be loaded in refrigerator trucks. Their temperature will drop and perhaps kill the immunizing agents of the drug. We could be injecting people with nothing or worse, something that is spoiled with unknown side effects.

Namibia needs consistent, non-stop electricity for the freezers holding the expensive drugs. We have all seen grocery stores cleaning out their entire frozen food sections because the power went off in the night. We cannot have that with these vaccines!

n rural areas, where there is no power and no refrigeration, the plan for vaccine distribution will be an ever-greater challenge. Presumably, planning for this is already complete, since Namibia joined COVAX months ago. Nothing can be taken for granted. There must be checks and balances and tight oversight.

As we all know, the vaccine requires TWO SHOTS, not just one. We wonder if the announced amounts of the vaccine available via COVAX to Namibia covers BOTH shots for each person? If there is only one shot given you are not ‘half immune.’ Either both shots are given at the right times, or the entire process is useless.

Many countries are announcing that they are not holding back the second shot and waiting on resupply to provide the next shot a week later. I trust Namibia is NOT doing this. These initial shipments we get could be the ONLY shipments we receive. With over N$129 million needed to buy more doses (money we do not have), this first round we receive could be it. Do not inject someone without the #2 shot in the hand.

Does Namibia achieve herd immunity with 20 percent of the population vaccinated? This question is not being addressed.

We hope that the usual comrades and friend-of-a-friend methods are not used to decide who gets the valuable injections. There must be a priority list, and it must be adhered to at all costs. No back door payments to ‘someone’ to get shots can be tolerated. I would hope there are emergency laws in place that will jail someone who gives such an illicit shot and those who receive it.

We trust that each vaccine shipment is being guarded throughout its progress from off-loading until the injection into a recipient. There are criminal syndicates that would seek to get their hands on such drugs. Imagine the high black-market price for viable COVID-19 vaccines. There are people with money who would pay well to get their shots first.

These people are ruthless and selfish. African countries with less security and a laid back culture are targets of these kinds of organized criminal gangs. These drugs can be stolen and out of the country in hours before anyone here realizes it. This must be policed tightly.

We have read that Namibia is contacting our allies for more doses and free doses from China or Russia. While this will not likely materialize as they have hundreds of millions of their own people in need. Still, it must be diplomatically requested none-the-less.

If money to buy more doses is a problem, let civil servants, SOE and politician salaries be cut by 10 percent from those working above a certain level. Those savings should go to buy more vaccines. We must order our priorities and do what we must to save our people and our economy. This is make-or-break time for Namibia. We must rise to the challenge.

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