Monday, July 22, 2024

No budget for COVID-19 vaccine yet

The government has yet to approve funds to procure the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has said. While in some parts of the world countries are already at advanced stages to roll out the vaccine, Botswana is still to allocate funds for the procurement of the treatment. Responding to a question in Parliament this week the Ministry said they were still awaiting approval to their request for funds.

“The costs of procuring the vaccine were unanticipated and were not budgeted for in 2020/21 budget.  There is, now, an established need, and the ministry has since submitted a request for the required resources,” the Ministry said this past week.

It is not clear if the money requested by the Ministry is outside the P1 billion supplementary budget approved by the Minister of Finance earlier this year to finance critical and urgent interventions relating to combating and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“Funds they had initially mobilized, both under the ministry and the COVID-19 pandemic relief fund to address the effects of the pandemic are getting depleted hence the need to make an initial budgetary provision,” Minister of Finance Dr Thapelo Matsheka told the winter session of Parliament.

The Health Ministry said this week that they would not expect to spend additional funds on anything else other than the vaccine.

“The need to expand the existing infrastructure and procure additional equipment in health facilities is not envisaged. It is anticipated that the existing infrastructure and equipment would be adequate to assist in the management, storage and deployment of the vaccines. Relevant structures in the ministry will continue to monitor the situation and apply appropriate measures, when need arises,” the Ministry said.

The Ministry said even when it finally arrives the vaccine may not be immediately adequate to immunize everyone, saying public health strategies will be employed for priority targeting.

The Ministry cited World Health Organization guidelines that have identified different target priority groups giving regard to ethical and other access considerations.  They include frontline health and care workers at high risk of infection, older adults, and those people at high risk of death because of underlying conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

“An Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee is currently being set up by the ministry to address the underlying issues.  Among its duties will be to facilitate the deployment of the vaccines across the country.” The Ministry were responding to a question from Bobonong Member of Parliament Taolo Lucas.

In his State of the Nation Address recently President Mokgweetsi Masisi alluded to Botswana being party to a coalition aimed at negotiating affordable and speedy access for vaccine to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines regardless of their economic standing.

The coalition, COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility), was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organization to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The local COVID-19 Task Force have warned of a significant surge in positive cases as the nation heads into the festive season. Batswana have been advised to avoid travelling for the holidays in an effort to curb the spread of the virus which has now claimed at least 37 lives since the first case was reported in March 2020.


Read this week's paper