Sunday, June 23, 2024

Batswana to wait until 2023 for Covid-19 vaccine

Batswana who are not part of the frontline workforce may have to wait until 2023 before they can get inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine two independent reports show.

The first report by the Economic Intelligent Unit predicts that “meaningful vaccination coverage enough for life to return to normal may not be possible until 2023, if ever,” suggesting bleak prospects for Botswana and other low-income countries.

Another report by the COVAX facility also arrives at a similarly dire conclusion

Botswana will receive 117,600 doses for frontline workers only in the first quarter of 2021. This suggests that the rest of the population may have to sit firmly at the back of the queue for access to vaccines.

The report reveals that majority of population for Botswana and other poor nations will be vaccinated by mid-2023.

The report shows that early starters with wealth advantage, strategic importance and logistics offerings that will receive vaccines and rollout as early as possible are Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopian, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Seychelles.

Majority of their population will be vaccinated by mid-2022, the report says. It is understood that these countries have made arrangements from independent manufactures/distributors as well as securing deals with China and Russia.

Botswana and other countries are relying on COVAX- facility and rollout of vaccines that will be received through collective bargaining via the African Union (AU) which has secured some deals with manufacturers on behalf of the continent.

“A significant proportion of the population could be vaccinated by the second half of 2023 subject to the availability of vaccine doses through collective bargaining and the COVAX facility. Countries that fall into this category include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’voire, DRC, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia,” the report says.

It says COVAX doses will cover only up to 20 percent of the population of each country. “Given that unexpected hiccups in procuring supplies have already occurred in most developed countries, it is likely that developing countries with poor infrastructure, few healthcare workers and inadequate refrigeration will find the rollout even harder.

This means that for many poor countries nations, the rollout of vaccines will not get underway until early 2023, if it happens at all,” the report says.

Based on these reports Sunday Standard sent a questionnaire to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Presidential COVID-19 Task Force in an effort to establish among others the status of vaccines procurement from global manufacturers and whether apart from the World Health Organisation (WHO) flagship vaccine distribution initiative- COVAX facility, has made procurement arrangements with other manufacturers/supplies.

Sunday Standard also sought to know if there were any vaccines en route or deliveries due or pre-orders, how many doses as well as timelines for deliveries and status of the national rollout strategy.

The Ministry’s spokesperson Doreen Motshegwa had initially promised to respond to Sunday Standard queries sent two weeks ago but backtracked saying her Ministry would issue a statement. The statement in question was delivered by Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti but did not address some of the issues raised in the questionnaire. 

For his part the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19 Coordinator Kereng Masupu said “We advise that questions on the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine and Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital operations be referred to the office of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”

Masupu added that “Nonetheless, the Presidential COVID-19 Task Force is indeed concerned with non-compliance of COVID-19 protocols by some members of the society. We wish to reiterate that measures like the wearing of masks covering both the nose and mouth, social distancing, sanitizing as well as washing one’s hands with water and soap are sufficient to stem the spread of the pandemic, if everyone compliance with them.” 

In the report, the Economic Intelligence Unit observed that some middle-income countries and most low-income countries will be relying on COVA, an initiative led by WHO that aims to secure six billion doses for poorer countries around the world.

In an updated interim distribution forecast, the COVAX facility states that ‘this indicative distribution is intended to provide interim guidance to Facility participant’s-offering planning scenario to enable preparations for the final allocation of the number of doses each participant receive in the first rounds of vaccine distribution.”

The COVAX facility warned: “It is therefore non-binding and may be subject to change, due to the caveats…” 

The COVAX facility also stated that it was important to underscore that the indicative distribution is based on current communication of estimated availability from manufacturers.

“In this regard, it is likely the distribution may seem to be adjusted in light of circumstances that are difficult to anticipate and variables that are constantly evolving.” 

Regarding other arrangements that involve the African Union (AU) and other partners, the Economic Intelligence Unit states that these collective arrangements are merely intentions to supply rather than finalised sale contracts and actual procurement process must run their course. 

Negotiations over the finer details to formalize the deals are ongoing which creates an element of uncertainty over how many doses will be made available and when these will be delivered.

In a live broadcast on Btv on Thursday, Dikoloti was non-committal regarding COVID-19 vaccines procurement, distribution and rollout.

He said as part of the broader strategy of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has embarked on an initiative to acquire and quickly deploy safe and secure vaccine for the citizens and residents of Botswana.

“The Government has thus far identified platforms for the procurement of vaccines. Furthermore, payments approximating US$10 million have been made in order to secure the various vaccines. This allocation is population based.  The said platforms are as follows; COVAX Facility; through this platform the government has secured enough to cover its frontline workers and African Medical Supplies Platform through African Union (AU).  The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team established by the African Union has been able to secure a provisional 270 million for Africa-from which Botswana will receive its share,” said Dikoloti.

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