Geingob bemoans vaccine apartheid again

While only 6.4% of the Namibian population had been fully vaccinated by this week, the head of state has announced plans to increase our herd immunity target from 60 to 70%.

24 September 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

President Hage Geingob put the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to good use, calling for fair distribution of much-needed Covid-19 vaccines - which have been largely out of reach for African countries.

By Wednesday, only 160 969 people had been fully vaccinated in Namibia, a mere 6.4% of the population, and a far cry from the envisioned target of 60% to reach herd immunity.

Geingob told the UNGA that Namibia, in fact, wants to expand this number to get 70% of its population vaccinated by next year.

“While committing to save lives now, Namibia wishes to state that saving lives can only be successful once we eliminate vaccine apartheid. It is not in anyone’s interest that in certain countries people are receiving their first doses while in others, people are receiving booster shots. Let us not forget that no one is safe until all of us are safe,” he said.

Addressing American president Joe Biden, Geingob went on to say: “As someone who we know is a staunch partner in our fight against apartheid, we have the utmost confidence that, once again, you will partner with us to ensure that indeed, all of us - whether big or small, whether old or young, whether poor or wealthy - are safe from Covid-19.”

Obstructing fair access

Geingob’s repeated call comes hot on the heels of an Amnesty Report that has accused rich countries of buying and hoarding vaccine doses while vaccine manufacturers play a decisive role in limiting global production and obstructing fair access to a life-saving health product.

“One of the major obstacles to ensuring fair access to Covid-19 vaccines is lack of transparency, which makes contracts, pricing, technology and knowledge transfer impossible to accurately map and optimise. Yet no company assessed has fully disclosed the actual costs of production, individual cost items, sources of external funding, prices charged in different countries, contractual terms and conditions, or information about discounting, donations and advance order guarantees,” the report stated.

It also castigated these manufacturers of denying poorer countries access despite receiving billions of dollars in government funding and advance orders, which effectively removed risks normally associated with the development of medicines.

Here, this rings particularly true as the country has waited for months to receive vaccines bought through notorious Covax facility, which reduced Namibia to begging for vaccine donations, with which it has eventually rolled out its vaccination campaign.

Waiting game

Namibia made an upfront payment of N$26.4 million to Covax last November, nine months after the country’s first reported case.

The country received its first batch through this facility only six months later in April, however, only 24 000 of the 108 000 doses arrived.

The last Covax consignment only arrived two weeks ago on 10 September, 10 months after the down payment was made.

And when the country found itself in the deadliest wave of Covid-19, making global headlines for becoming the continent’s fastest growing epidemic, its already slow vaccination campaign grinded to an abrupt halt.

The country resumed is campaign with a generous donation of 75 000 AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses, donated by the Netherlands authorities.

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