Namibia: Frustrated Geingob Takes On Covax... Says 'Covid Apartheid' a Threat to Equitable Vaccine Access

Namibian President Hage Geingob, addressing a WHO briefing on World Health Day 2021, decried 'vaccine apartheid'.

President Hage Geingob this week expressed displeasure at the United Nations-backed Covax scheme, which has been unable to deliver Covid-19 vaccine supplies despite Namibia making an upfront payment of N$29 million towards the procurement of doses last year.

Speaking during a virtual media conference with World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Geingob likened the situation to 'Covid apartheid', saying the country was excluded by Covax despite a promise to have over 100 000 vaccine doses delivered by end of January this year.

Namibia is now only expecting to take delivery of the vaccine supplies within two weeks.

"We must speak not only of availability of opportunities and health services but of equitable access to essential tools such as the Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatment for both the small and big countries, to move closer to universal health coverage. I wish to express my disappointment in the manner in which Covid-19 vaccines are being distributed, and this points to a form of vaccine apartheid," Geingob bemoaned.

Geingob feels a fairer and healthier world also means that the global approach, must necessarily address the root causes of both unfairness and poor health in all their manifestations.

Namibia is currently using donated vaccine doses to rollout a vaccination campaign in Khomas and Erongo regions, which is mainly targeting frontline workers.

The governments of China and India recently donated 100 000 and 30 000 vaccine doses respectively. "I always say that inclusivity spells harmony and exclusivity spells conflict.

There is no other alternative but to collaborate in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, and by so doing to build together a fairer and healthier world," Geingob noted.

On his part, Ghebreyesus agreed Covid-19 has unfairly impacted some people more harshly than others, exacerbating existing inequities in health and welfare within and between countries.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has thrived amid the inequalities in our societies and the gaps in our health systems," he said.

"It is vital for all governments to invest in strengthening their health services and to remove the barriers that prevent so many people from using them, so more people have the chance to live healthy lives."

The WHO has indicated that within countries, illness and Covid-19 death-related have been higher among groups who face discrimination, poverty, social exclusion, and adverse daily living as well as the working environment.

The pandemic is estimated to have driven between 119 and 124 million more people into extreme poverty last year. As world leaders, Geingob said they summon the necessary political will to collectively address the devastation brought by Covid-19 on the global economy.

For Namibia, he said, the national response and preparedness meant that the government was able to strengthen the health system in various aspects.

These include expanding physical infrastructure, bringing onboard more health professionals, procuring medical equipment, consumables and supplies, as well as improving monitoring and evaluation systems.

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