by Charmaine Ngatjiheue, Shelleygan Petersen and Tutaleni Pinehas

NAMIBIA will receive its first doses of Covid-19 vaccine from China this afternoon.

Deputy prime minister and international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will receive the vaccines at Hosea Kutako International Airport, together with China’s ambassador to Namibia, Zhang Yiming, and health and social services minister Kalumbi Shangula.

Zhang said last month that China would donate 100 000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Namibia.

Namibia is one of three out of nine countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that have not received vaccines yet.

Zambia is also yet to receive vaccines, while Tanzania has been reluctant to acquire any vaccine.

Meanwhile, South Africa is set to receive its second batch of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

“I can confirm the arrival of vaccines this week,” Shangula said.

The minister could, however, also not confirm which vaccine the country would receive, and whether it would be through the Covax facility.

Shangula two weeks ago announced that Namibia would receive 30 000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (Covishield), 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, and 127 700 AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doses through the Covax facility.

The Covishield and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines have been approved by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC), but the Sinopharm vaccine is yet to receive emergency clearance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

About 22 399 healthcare workers are first in line, along with president Hage Geingob, to be inoculated, followed by the vulnerable members of the population, such as those in hospital, pregnant women and the elderly.

On the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NDVP), deputy executive director of health and social services Petronella Masabane last week said the ministry had to revisit some of its parts.

She did, however, not elaborate on this.

“Once … the minister has signed the plan, it will be shared. The technical team has to discuss and formulate a position,” she said.

Namibia’s deployment and vaccination plan forCovid-19 vaccines will cost the country about N$583 million.

Of this amount, N$484 million will be spent on the procurement of vaccines.

“This will enable Namibia to procure vaccines for an additional 40% of the population to attain 60% vaccination coverage,” Shangula said.

The People’s Litigation Centre (PLC) has questioned the government’s decision to buy Covid-19 vaccines via a middleman.

The health ministry’s bids invitation dated 10 March 2021 asked companies to supply and deliver Covid-19 vaccines.

The advertisement said questions should be sent to Leontine Shikukutu and Fabiola Vahekeni.

The Namibian has reported that Vahekeni was accused of nepotism at the health ministry last year.

She allegedly tried to fend off stiff competition from 10 bidders, and tried to help her former business partners to land a N$7 million medicine supply contract.

“Only manufacturers, dealers and distributors in pharmaceuticals who are legally registered and have valid manufacturing or trading licences in Namibia, or otherwise legally authorised in the country of exportation of the items specified in the request may submit their offers,” the advertisement said.

All bidders must attach manufacturers’ authorisation for the vaccine they are offering, it stated.

Another requirement is that the vaccines should be on the WHO’s emergency-use list or are registered in Namibia, or approved for emergency use by Namibian regulators.

PLC chairperson Mathias Haufiku last week in a statement said the procurement of medicine in Namibia has been tainted by reports of middlemen who inflate prices. He also claimed substandard medicine is delivered at times.

The organisation said the government’s procurement of vaccines should treated “with a level of seriousness which protects Namibian people against unscrupulous middlemen”, and that the health ministry can legally obtain vaccines directly from the said three manufacturers.

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