Namibia: Geingob Blasts 'Covid Apartheid'

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has told the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Namibia feels excluded by the Covax facility, labelling this "Covid apartheid".

Geingob said this yesterday during a virtual press conference with WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus.

Namibia was supposed to receive 127 700 vaccine doses through the WHO's Covax facility towards the end of January this year.

However, the delivery date was moved to February and then March.

Namibia has still not received the Covax vaccine, but has received donations from China and India.

Geingob stressed that Namibia, despite being a small country, made its payment to secure the Covax vaccine, but the country is still waiting.

"We made the advance payment (N$29 million) but there is this exclusion. Covid apartheid is now prevailing and we fought against apartheid for many years after races were divided, and after independence we adopted our policy of [national] reconciliation.

"But we as a small country in Africa, who already made our deposit, are up to now waiting to get our vaccine. That is not good," he said.

The president said Namibia is feeling left out.

"Inclusivity spells harmony. We got help from our good friends, China and India, who gave us vaccines, and I really thank them for that," he said.

Tedros told Geingob that Namibia will receive its vaccine doses through the facility in two weeks.

He added that the delays are as a result of the pandemic response.

"It is great that Namibia is rolling out vaccines and I heard from the Covax facility that Namibia will receive its vaccines. I fully agree with the problems we are facing with vaccine equity, but it is a problem with the pandemic response," he added.

Meanwhile, private hospitals have opted to not use vaccines which do not appear on the World Health Organisation's Emergency Use Listing (EUL) - including Sinopharm.

Namibia received 100 000 China-donated Sinopharm vaccines roughly a fortnight ago, which is yet to be approved by the WHO.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services at the time said the vaccine did not need to wait for the organisation's emergency listing before it is rolled out, which complies with the Namibia Medicines and Related Substances Control Act.

Ben Nangombe, executive director of health and social services yesterday confirmed that private healthcare facilities have decided to not use any vaccines without this listing.

He said this does not apply to the Sinopharm vaccine only, but to all vaccines.

"They shared their position to not use any vaccine that does not have WHO emergency listing, and we respect their decision," he said.

Nangombe said private facilities are still on board to assist the government in rolling out Namibia's vaccination programme.

"They are still willing to assist us and are ready to roll out the approved vaccines once they are available. I spoke to the Namibian Association of Private Health Facilities (NAPH) and individual private hospitals, and they have reaffirmed their commitment," Nangombe said, adding that private hospitals have the option to use Covishield, which is donated by India.

NAPH spokesperson Esme Botes declined to comment yesterday and referred The Namibian to the health ministry.

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