Friday, June 18, 2021

Conflicting statements by Tsogwane, Dikoloti on vaccine arrivals

Conflicting statements by Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and Minister of Health Edwin Dikoloti recently present more questions than answers about Botswana’s readiness to vaccinate the entire population by end of year.

Addressing the media recently following receipt of 33,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX Tsogwane said Botswana was expecting a total of 100, 000 doses of vaccine the rest of which he said were expected to arrive in the coming few weeks.

He said the vaccines have been acquired by the government with the intention to vaccinate the entire population. Contrary to the Vice President’s statement, 100 000 AstraZeneca doses which are administered two doses per individual, can only vaccinate 50,000 individuals. With a population of over 2 million people it would take at in excess of four million doses to inoculate the entire population.

His statement on the amount of vaccine expected differs from that of Health Minister Dikoloti who outlined various programs through which the government expected to acquire enough vaccines to inoculate the entire population “by Christmas 2021”.

He said Botswana had spent US$ 10 million to purchase various vaccines part of which (US 2, 9 million) was paid to the COVAX facility. He also made reference to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) established by the African Union which he said has been able to secure 270 million doses for Africa from which Botswana will receive its share. “About $7.01 Million has been paid on this facility.”

Botswana received the first batch of the COVAX vaccine last week. Leaders of international organisations were also at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport to welcome the arrival. “The arrival of COVAX vaccines is also a result of an international effort, where many countries have contributed financially. All of us here today represent countries and governments that are backing the initiative and have invested billions into it. This has financed the mechanism itself and also the distribution to the low-income countries, including many in Africa. It is only by international solidarity we can get out of the pandemic. And that is why we are here and that is what makes COVAX special. No one will be safe until everyone is safe,” said Jan Sadek, Ambassador of the European Union behalf of the International Partners.

This is the second batch of vaccines received by Botswana within a month. The first batch arrived on March 9, 2021 as Botswana received a donation of 30 000 COVID-19 vaccines from India. The Covishield vaccines are Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

Botswana has already begun the roll out of the Covishield vaccine starting with elders above 55 years of age and political leaders. No concerns regarding side effects have been made about the vaccine so far following reports in Europe that led to some countries suspending the use of AstraZeneca.

Initial reports on efficacy also cast doubts on the vaccines ability in the face of the South African variant. It was reported that in an analysis that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine provided minimal protection against mild-moderate COVID-19 infection from the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa in mid-November 2020.

Efficacy against severe COVID-19 infection from this variant was not assessed, it was reported. The analyses indicated the vaccine had high efficacy against the original coronavirus.

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