Thursday, October 28, 2021

Botswana unlikely to meet its vaccination target for 2021

With only 22 percent of the population having been vaccinated, it is highly unlikely that Botswana would have reached the target it set for itself in its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19.

In terms of the Plan, the country aimed at vaccinating 75 percent of the adult population by the end of 2021. However, both vaccination acquisition and rollout have not been happening at such speed as to enable the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) to close the 53 percent gap that has opened up.

As just one example of what is delaying progress, the government received an incomplete consignment of Sinovac vaccine from China earlier this month. However, last Monday (September 13) the MoHW’s spokesman, Dr. Christopher Nyanga, announced through a press statement, that the Ministry was “experiencing delays in finalising the due diligence processing” of the consignment. The due diligence involves “some critical technical vaccine profiling documentation” which the manufacturer didn’t enclose but had promised to do by the end of the week. At press time, there had been no progress update on this matter, meaning that such information was still not available. Nyanga explained that the Ministry “cannot proceed to vaccinate people without having followed the strict quality checks and protocols as it has been doing with all vaccines that have so far arrived in the country.”

In some other cases, the delivery of vaccine consignments is delayed – when the Ministry would already have announced their imminent arrival. It would make sense to make any announcement when the consignments have actually arrived, been checked and ready to roll out. However, it would appear that there is political pressure on public officers to make (premature) announcements that portray political leaders in good light.

The acquisition and successful rollout of vaccines is a prerequisite for economic recovery and the longer the roll-out is delayed, the longer it will take for the economy to recover. This means that gains of what the International Monetary Fund has described as “a strong recovery that is currently underway” for Botswana are being reversed. While uneven across sectors, such recovery is being driven by improvements in the global demand for diamonds, the easing of restrictions on mobility and the expansionary fiscal stance.

According to Nyanga, a total of 334 318 (or 22 percent of the Botswana adult population) had been fully vaccinated as at September 10, 2021.

“This figure is way higher than the average 10 percent for most African countries,” he said, adding that additionally more than 85 percent of the education sector has also been fully vaccinated. “Other prioritised groups like those in the security, tourism, health care and mining sectors, amongst others, are also continuously being vaccinated.”

Germany has donated 401 280 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The first batch of 101 760 doses arrived on Friday and the balance will be delivered at an unspecified date in the near future. While this acquisition will help speed up the roll-out, reaching the 75 percent target still looks highly unlikely.

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