Health Ministry tight lipped on AstraZeneca vaccine

Andrew Kathindi

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) remains tightlipped on whether Namibia is still going ahead to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine later this month.

Or if it will opt out of the deal after it was found to be highly ineffective against a new variant of the virus, known as 501.V2, discovered in South Africa late last year. The lack of an official position by the ministry, comes after a technical team in the government department met this Monday to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine following findings on its ineffectiveness by South African health officials.

“If at all we are to make any pronouncements, it will be at an appropriate time,” Executive Director in the ministry, Ben Nangombe, informed the Windhoek Observer sabout the ministry’s position on AstraZeneca vaccine.

Nangombe said that Namibia is still going ahead with its plans to secure the COVID-19 vaccine through various means and “government is not putting its eggs in one basket.” However, he was mum on whether the ministry was still going ahead with procuring the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“When the COVID-19 vaccine arrives here, the nation will be informed which one it is. If it is AstraZeneca vaccine, the nation will be informed. If it is something else, the nation will also be informed,” he said.

The government has thus far spent N$28 million of N$193 million for the vaccine.

The development comes as the Health ministry is yet to officially confirm if the new variant of COVID-19 is present in Namibia, though minister Kalumbi Shangula, said last year it was highly likely that it is spreading in the local communities.

Nangombe, who earlier this week, said the ministry will confirm whether the variant is in the country this coming week ornot, said confirmation has been delayed in order to accurately verify the data.

“We have been working flat out to sort out that matter. Good progress is being made. We need to work very carefully and thoroughly so that the information going out to the public is cogent.”

South Africa has discontinued a roll-out campaign for the AstraZeneca vaccine after a study conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand found that the vaccine was less effective against the new variant of COVID-19, amid indication the batch received by the neighboring country expire in April.

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