Government concerned about Northern vaccination reluctance

Andrew Kathindi

Minister of health and Social Services Kalumbi Shangula, is raising concern over the low number of people being vaccinated in northern Namibia.

The Government has relaxed some of the measures being used to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country. “Of the various vaccine sites that I visited, I found no, or only a few persons who have come for vaccination. While vaccination teams were deployed at the sites, members of the public have not showed up,” says Shangula. According to him he was informed by vaccination officials that the daily average of vaccines at their respective sites per day is only in two-digit figures.

“On Monday and Tuesday this week, I visited Oshikoto, Oshana and Omusati regions to observe the Covid-19 response situation, especially the vaccination activities in those regions. I visited vaccination sites at Outapi, Tsandi, Okahao, Oshakati and Onandjokwe. I must express my grave concern about the extremely low vaccine uptake, especially in Omusati Region.”

The minister further says that some of the discouragement towards vaccination has in fact been coming from health workers. “This is a cause for serious concern and I wish to use this platform to call on all eligible persons to go for vaccination. It was reported that some health workers have in fact been discouraging members of the public to get vaccinated. Health workers are strongly warned not to engage in such activities. Those who make themselves guilty of such violations will be dealt with in terms of applicable laws and regulations.”

Only 37 381 people from the Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana and Omusati regions, have been vaccinated with both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, which is less than the 48 280 that have been vaccinated from Khomas region alone with both vaccines. In Omusati, 10 548 people have received the first shots of the vaccine.

Attorney-General, Festus Mbandeka warns that false information regarding the vaccine is punishable by N$100 000 or ten years in prison.

“There are still some members of our society who continue to distribute false info about the vaccine, this is an offense.”

President Hage Geingob says the Government’s plan is to reach the 60 percent required for herd immunity by March 2022. “Our target is to vaccinate at least 1,5million of eligible Namibians or 60 percent of the population by 31 March 2022, to attain herd immunity. While respecting the health choices of the individual, we find ourselves in a unique and rather complex crisis, in which the decisions of the individual have a bearing on the collective.”

Namibia’s vaccination rate currently stands at 1.8 percent of the population, and with vaccination reluctance, it could make the 2022 herd immunity target unattainable. Meantime, travel restrictions between regions, which was imposed amid the Third Wave, has now been lifted and travel will be allowed without a permit starting Sunday, 1 August.

“The public is however urged to strengthen public health measures at personal and community levels. The sale of liquor remains restricted, on take-away basis between 09h00 to 18h00, Monday to Friday, except for those hospitality establishments that have resident guests,” says President Geingob.

Schools are set to resume face to face teaching on 4 August. The country has thus far recorded 118 429 and 2 999 deaths.

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