Qualifying his statement, the Chief Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Christopher Nyanga, says that the government expects to have vaccinated 80 percent of all eligible adults by March 2022.
“However, this will be dependent on vaccine availability,” he adds. “Although vaccines have been sourced and paid for, delivery by manufacturers takes longer than anticipated on account of global demand outstripping supply.”
Botswana began its vaccination programme in March this year with former President Festus Mogae and the Minister of Health and Wellness, Edwin Dikoloti, among those taking the first shot at the Block 8 Medical Clinic in Gaborone. In addition to a somewhat controversial (some say suspect) donation from India, Botswana has been getting vaccines through the COVAX facility, an international COVID-19 vaccine campaign co-led by the World Health Organization and its partners. As Sunday Standard has reported, a disproportionately large number of Indian-origin-Batswana and Indian nationals residing in Botswana were among the first to be quietly vaccinated at an Extension 5 house owned by an Indian-origin tycoon. The house didn’t appear on the published list of official vaccination sites.
As in other countries, Botswana has its own vaccine-skeptics, some of whom spout social-media conspiracy theories about the global vaccine roll-out being a ploy by Bill Gates and other wealthy people to cull the world human population. This skepticism is of grave concern because it could reverse gains made against the pandemic. In some countries, those who refuse to get vaccinated are denied certain privileges. In the United States, a Texas ultrasound technologist was fired for refusing to receive COVID-19 vaccination. In Indonesia, the government has announced that it will punish those who refuse the vaccine by stopping or delaying social assistance programmes and administrative services for them as well as by imposing fines on them. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest those who refuse COVID-19 vaccines.
For now at least, Botswana has not had any substantive national conversation about what it will do with its own vaccine skeptics. Down the road however, the country will itself have to grapple with the question of what to do with people whose actions can reverse gains made against the pandemic at tremendous cost to the public purse. Even at a personal level, individuals will have to decide whether it is safe to continue socializing with friends who refuse to take the vaccine for a wily disease that continues to claim lives across the country.
Sunday Standard asked the Ministry whether any privileges would be denied those who refuse to be vaccinated for whatever reason. In response, Nyanga said that no decision has been made on that particular issue.
“Public education is being intensified to encourage all eligible Batswana and residents of this country to take the COVID-19 jab when their time comes. Given the high numbers of people coming to vaccination centres across the country, there is no doubt that most Batswana and residents are eager to get vaccinated as this is the only way to prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms and death.”