President Hage Geingob's willingness to be among the first to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus during the first phase of the Sinopharm vaccine rollout plan will have to be paused as he and most of his Cabinet are too old to receive the Chinese-donated vaccine.
This comes after 100 000 Sinopharm doses, which minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula said were destined for people between the ages of 18 and 59 years, arrived in Namibia on Tuesday.
Shangula said because he himself does not meet the age requirements, he will wait for the next batch of vaccines expected through the Covax facility, with no specified arrival date yet.
Geingob (79) in early February said he would be willing to be the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available in the country.
"I will be willing, in public, to be the first one, but I hope nobody is going to say 'oh, elites have lined up and left the people dying in the streets'," Geingob said.
Yesterday he said: "I did not out of the blue say I will be the first. I answered a question."
Meanwhile, minister of defence and veterans affairs Peter Vilho (59) has offered to be one of the first politicians to take the vaccine.
At the vaccine arrival event on Tuesday, Shangula said target populations for phase one of the vaccine rollout include frontline healthcare workers, community healthcare workers, people between 18 and 59 years, people in close settings and those operating cross-border transportation (which includes truck drivers, pilots, and bus drivers), employees at points of entry, police officers, journalists, members of the diplomatic corps, mining and fisheries sector employees, religious and traditional leaders, people with disabilities, minorities and refugees.
"People with comorbidities, those older than 60 years old, as well as pregnant and lactating women will be excluded to allow the country obtain more data on the use of the Sinopharm vaccine," he said.
Phase two of the vaccination rollout will run concurrently with phase one, starting tomorrow and running until 16 April in the specified districts.
The first two regions to get inoculated are the Khomas and Erongo.
"The vaccine to be used is the Sinopharm SARS-CoV-2. It is a two-dose vaccine of 0,5 ml, administered at day 0 and day 28. Individuals confirmed as Covid-19 positive must wait for 90 days before receiving their first dose," Shangula said.
The Sinopharm vaccine has been rolled out in countries such as China, Seychelles, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.
Recipients will be observed for 15 to 30 minutes after vaccination and are encouraged to report telephonically or visit the nearest healthcare facility if they experience any potential side effects or adverse events following immunisation.
NOT APPROVED BY WHO
The Sinopharm vaccine is yet to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) under its emergency-use listing. However, Shangula has maintained that Namibia will go ahead with its rollout plan, since Sinopharm has been approved by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council.
Sinopharm's interim results have been released, but have not been peer reviewed yet.
Based on the results of the first two trial phases, the medical journal The Lancet deemed the Sinopharm vaccine safe.
"We work under the Namibia Medicines and Related Substances Control Act, and so the rollout is in conformity with the provision of that act. The act makes no provision for whether a vaccine or medicine should first be approved by the WHO before it can be used in Namibia," Shangula said.
Namibia aims to vaccinate between 60% and 80% of the population to achieve the required level of herd immunity.
The allocation of vaccines for Namibia from the Covax facility will only cover 20% of the population.
This means Namibia has to source the remaining 60% of vaccines elsewhere.