Namibia: Over 150,000 Vaccines to Be Destroyed

The minister of health and social services, Kalumbi Shangula, said 154 595 doses of Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik component 1 will be destroyed because they are unfit for use.

Shangula made the announcement yesterday, as the Khomas region recorded a spike in cases, with 66 new infections recorded out of 1 818 samples on Wednesday.

Overall, the country recorded 81 cases, far above the average of the last few weeks, which were then 20 cases daily.

Speaking to The Namibian, Shangula said the vaccines are no longer fit because they were either received with a short shelf life, or exposed to temperature during transportation.

This will not leave Namibians in a deficit of jabs, Shangula stressed.

"We are not in any short supply of doses."

However, Namibia's vaccine take-up stands at less than 20%. This is despite efforts from the government to promote Covid-19 vaccination. Namibians appear to be particularly hesitant to be vaccinated, with many claiming that vaccines are still at an experimental stage.

During Namibia's third Covid -19 wave, the country struggled to procure vaccines, with president Hage Geingob terming it "vaccine apartheid".

Geingob said First World countries were hoarding vaccines, while middle- to-low income countries were struggling to procure sufficient doses.

Currently, 372 139 Namibians have gotten their first dose, while 313 221 have received all their Covid-19 vaccination shots.

Shangula yesterday stressed that the country has the tools and means to avert "another catastrophe".

"It is clear that cases are picking up, which may signal the dawn of the fourth wave.

"Concerted efforts are required before the situation gets out of hand for us as a nation to break the chain of the transmission," he added.

Currently, the Khomas region has reported the highest number of new cases - 81% of total confirmed cases.

"This is a 41% increase from what was reported yesterday (Wednesday) and nationally, we record an increment of 44%," Shangula noted.

Of the confirmed cases, 10 are students, four are healthcare workers, two are pupils and one is a teacher.

"Healthcare practitioners are encouraged to advise their patients to get tested timely," he said.

NAMIBIA RED-LISTING

German ambassador Herbert Beck told The Namibian that the ban imposed on southern African countries was an initial reaction to South Africa's announcement, which is now subject to an on-the-ground assessment.

Germany is one of 40 countries that have red-listed Namibia.

"I think that was just reacting to, on the one hand the dramatic situation in Europe, and secondly, you have another variant which you do not know what it does," he said.

According to Reuters, Germany has reported the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 since mid-February, as hospitals warn that the country could have 6 000 people in intensive care by Christmas, more than the peak of last winter.

"Germany's federal and regional governments agreed on Tuesday to take action to counter the fourth wave of Covid-19, including stepping up the vaccination campaign and restricting contact, especially for unvaccinated people," Reuters reported.

Beck said that the situation will remain fragile and nobody knows what awaits the world around the corner. He stressed the uncertainties of the implications of the Omicron virus.

"The classification of Namibia, South Africa and other countries in southern Africa by member states of the European Union and by other countries, including those in the global south was understandably perceived as a hard blow by the affected countries," he said.

These decisions are very difficult to digest, particularly for the tourism industry, which has already been hard hit since the beginning of the pandemic, Beck said.

"Experience teaches us that quick action is the right thing to do in view of the highly dynamic nature of pandemics," he added.

The designation now made of Namibia as a virus variant area must be maintained only as long as it makes epidemiological sense, he added. "Beyond that, we must continue to back Namibia in addressing the health crisis."

TRACING

Meanwhile, Shangula said contact tracing is being done for the Namibian diplomat (30) and Czech national (60) who tested positive for the Omicron variant, through collecting information on the individuals' route of travel and their contacts in Namibia.

Executive director of international relations and cooperation Penda Naanda said the Namibian envoy embarked on an Ethiopian Airways flight from Namibia with a negative PCR Covid-19 test, however, information around the Czech national is still unknown.

New Zealand-based infectious disease specialist Dr Gordon Cupido said from what he has observed, contact tracing does not make a huge difference.

"Particularly with younger mobile people and limited resources," he added.

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