Andrew Kathindi, Kandjemuni Kamuiiri, Rose-Mary Haufiku

It has emerged that most high-ranking government officials, including Minister of Health and Social Services (MoHss), Kalumbi Shangula, will not receive the Sinopharm vaccine, because of its age restrictions.

The vaccine, the first vaccine against COVID-19 to come into Namibia since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, is only recommended for use on people between the ages of 18 to 59 years. “If I fall in the eligible criteria I will take it. I am waiting for another one because this vaccine is only for people between 18 and 59 and I don’t fall within those age groups. So don’t be surprised if I don’t take it,” the Health Minister said when quizzed if he planned to take the vaccine.

Altogether 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm SARS-CoV-2 vaccine donated by the Chinese government, arrived in the country on Tuesday. The development will see the country starting with its vaccination rollout plan, with Phase I commencing on 19 March – 16 April.

According to the minister, the vaccination will start in two regions, Khomas and Erongo because they have, at different times, been classified as epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic in Namibia.

“The target populations include frontline health care workers, community health workers, persons who are between 18 to 59 years, persons in close settings and those operating cross-border transportation (truck drivers, pilots, cross-border public transport bus drivers), employees at points of entry, police officers, journalists, members of the diplomatic corps, mining and fishery sector employees, religious and traditional leaders, people with disability, minorities and refugees will be prioritised in Phase I.”

“Persons with comorbidities, those older than 60 years old, as well as pregnant and lactating women will be excluded, to allow the country to obtain more data on use of the Sinopharm vaccine.”

Meanwhile the Chinese government said it was willing to offer Namibia more batches of the Sinopharm vaccine, if the outcome from the vaccination roll-out is positive.

“That’s on Namibia’s side. If the result comes out positive enough, I believe the Namibian government and the ministry will consider to request more donations from China,” Ambassador of China to Namibia, Zhang Yiming, told the Windhoek Observer.

Yiming was,however, mum on whether China would be liable for any negative or fatal side effects to the vaccine, directing such queries to experts in the Health Ministry.

“Any kind of vaccine, before it receives official approval goes through a very sophisticated, restricted clinical test, same as our vaccine. It has completed the three stages of the clinical test. I believe that is a question for the experts of the line ministry. Every country in the world, their first priority will be national’s safety and life.”

The Sinopharm vaccine has thus far been rolled-out in countries such as China, Seychelles, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and others.

The Health Ministry has announced that the most responsive bidder for the procurement of new vaccines will be chosen in terms of the most competitive price (after bidders’ prices offered are compared with benchmark prices), delivery period lead time indicated, and product compliance with specifications.

Namibia on Tuesday recorded 42 new COVID-19 cases, which has taken the number of confirmed cases to 41 466.

The Ministry also announced nine new deaths, taking the COVID-19 death toll to 474.