by Shelleygan Petersen
HEALTH executive director Ben Nangombe has refused to divulge the amount of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine doses the country has ordered and also declined to comment on 34 health workers who have reportedly not been paid since the beginning of the year.
The media have been speculating that the government is procuring about 60 000 vials of the Russian vaccine.
Health and social services minister Kalumbi Shangula shoved the question on Sputnik V procurement to Nangombe during a Covid-19 briefing at State House yesterday.
Shangula confirmed to Windhoek Observer that Namibia will import the Sputnik V vaccine while Confidénte said the country had requested 600 000 doses.
“We are indeed looking into procuring the Sputnik V […] that process is ongoing. I do not know whether it would be prudent to comment on commercial transactions in terms of quality,” Nangombe said at State House yesterday.
The vaccine has not passed the initial approval stage by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to the WHO emergency use listing status report issued last week, the organisation requested more data and will do additional inspections until June.
The date of the approval will only be finalised once all data is submitted and inspections completed.
Shangula said countries such as Russia do not have any incentive to get the approval from WHO because they are already administering the vaccine to their own citizens.
“It simply means the vaccine has not gone through the processes of WHO,” he said.
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Meanwhile, Nangombe yesterday also refused to comment on 34 healthcare community workers who have not been paid since January.
“It will be appreciated as a matter of policy that no institution would want to comment on a personnel nature in the media,” he explained.
The executive director did, however, say the ministry is handling the matter with individual employees.
One of the workers who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday told The Namibian that they were first working under the WHO branch in Namibia and were paid by the organisation.
“They told us that we will be absorbed into the ministry’s payroll in January. However, we have not been paid yet,” the worker said.
The contracts of the workers have been extended to September, despite them not being paid for their services.
“We have families and we have to eat. How can they be so heartless? We have not been paid,” a vulnerable worker said.
Shangula could not say when the country is set to receive vaccines from the African Union, although numerous other countries have received their doses.
Namibia is yet to benefit from the more than N$372 million donated by MTN to the African Union to support the continent’s Covid-19 vaccination.
According to MTN Namibia marketing coordinator Petelina Frans, there is no specific date when the vaccines will arrive in Namibia. The next phases of the roll-out will be shared by the Africa CDC first.