Namibia scrambles for vaccines

29 March 2021 | Health



Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula is in Switzerland where he has met with director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and with the Covax facility coordinators to discuss the global effects of Covid-19, vaccines and capacity building.

This visit comes at a desperate time for Namibia, which has not yet received a single dose of vaccine through the Covax facility despite being one of the first countries on the continent to have paid their contribution.

Dr Ghebreyesus has in the meantime called on countries with Covid-19 vaccine doses that are approved by the WHO for emergency use to donate as many doses as they can. He also urged manufacturers to help ensure these countries can rapidly donate those doses.

“Getting all countries started with Covid-19 vaccination by day 100 is a solvable problem. Covax needs 10 million doses immediately as an urgent stop-gap measure so the remaining 20 countries can start vaccinating their health workers and older people,” he tweeted.

Kalumbi confirmed his visit to Switzerland but said he could not talk about it and would issue a statement once he returned to Namibia this week.

“As the chairman of the Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS, I went to conduct the Special Session from 24 to 25 March 2021. I also had a meeting with the director-general of WHO as well as the Covax Facility. Details will be in the press statement,” he said.

Namibia launched its national vaccination plan last week, but so far it has relied on donations made by the Chinese and Indian governments.

The Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm is not yet approved for emergency listing by the WHO, but the WHO office in Namibia confirmed that its assessment of Sinopharm and Sinovac was at an advanced stage.

This was confirmed by the WHO representative to Namibia, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses.

“Currently the process of EUL approval for Sinopharm vaccine is ongoing and we expect the outcome anytime soon. WHO remains committed to supporting the government in its Covid vaccination efforts and will continue to assist in acquiring the vaccines through the Covax facility,” he said.

Meanwhile, the health ministry issued a statement over the weekend regarding the use of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and the demographics to be excluded.

Those excluded are people below 18 years, pregnant women, those with immune suppressed conditions such as HIV/Aids, as well as people who suffer from severe allergies which require hospitalisation.

Those with uncontrolled epilepsy and uncontrolled chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart or kidney failure are also excluded.

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