Namibia to roll out AstraZeneca vaccine despite efficacy concerns

PUBLISHED: Wed, 17 Feb 2021 17:27:03 GMT

WINDHOEK, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Namibia will push ahead with the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine despite neighbouring South Africa halting distribution after concerns over its effectiveness against a new variant, the government said on Wednesday.

The nation of 2.5 million people recorded more than 36,000 COVID-19 cases with 394 deaths, with its mining and tourism-depended economy severely hit by the pandemic.

Health and Social Services Minister Kalumba Shanghula said investigations were still underway to establish whether the new COVID-19 variant is present in Namibia and the extent of its prevalence.

“In the meantime, our preparations for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out are ongoing,” he said.

South Africa paused the roll out of the vaccine because of preliminary trial data showing it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate disease caused by the 501Y.V2 variant dominant in the country..

In November, Namibia approved an upfront payment of 26.4 million Namibian dollars to the COVAX global COVID-19 vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization, giving it the option to buy coronavirus vaccines for 20% of its population.

Namibia is also in discussion with governments and vaccine manufacturers to secure additional vaccine supplies to cover the remaining 40% of the population, the minister said.

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(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa Editing by Tanisha Heiberg)

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