AstraZeneca keeps eluding Namibia

28 July 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

Government has expressed serious concern with the perpetual delays of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine delivery, which has now put the vaccination process in jeopardy.

Namibia has resumed its vaccination campaign with 250 000 doses of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm after an abrupt halt two weeks ago as a result of depleted stock.

Additional doses of AstraZeneca – acquired through the controversial Covax facility – were due this month, while Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines procured directly are expected between this month and next.

Meanwhile, thousands of Namibians who opted for the AstraZeneca vaccine have been left high and dry with regards to their second dose as the arrival date of the new stock remains uncertain.

By yesterday, a total of 74 743 people had received the first dose of AstraZeneca and were awaiting the second and final dose.

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe yesterday said the dates keep changing.

“None of these suppliers have given a firm date and is it unfortunate. As much as we are engaging them, these dates keep changing. It is quite a concern for us as a country as delivery dates are not met. We need the stocks to vaccinate our people,” he said.

Six-week window

He said they are hoping the vaccines, particularly the Covax-supplied AstraZeneca doses, will arrive in the coming days.

Nangombe added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that the second doses can be delayed by up to six weeks without any adverse health implications.

“We are looking at various options. There are countries that have also offered to donate vaccines to Namibia, including Germany. We are working with entities like the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Taskforce to get the doses here,” he said.

Nangombe added that they take serious measures to ensure the safety of all medicines imported into the country, including the Covid-19 vaccine.

This is done and approved before importation by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC) or in consultation with the council.

The NMRC approves vaccines following approval by the WHO or by other stringent regulatory authorities in other countries such as the United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (USA FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Safe for use

The executive director said due to their production and testing complexities, Namibia procures Covid-19 vaccines whose qualities are approved for use by WHO, and are pronounced safe for use.

“Should there be any suspicion that the quality of any vaccine is compromised, the ministry may conduct investigations which include laboratory testing. The ministry keeps samples of all the batches of the vaccines that have been distributed in case there may be need for testing them at some point in future.

“Upon receipt at the ministry, the Covid-19 vaccines, like all other medicinal products, are investigated for quality compliance, which includes sight inspection, cold chain condition adherence and others,” he said.

At service delivery level, the ministry continues to monitor the performance of the Covid-19 vaccines in the market by monitoring their effects on people, Nangombe said. “If the ministry observes anything that warrants laboratory testing, then laboratory testing shall be conducted.”

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