Namibia plans to go ahead with the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine even after neighbor South Africa stalled its use because trials showed it’s less effective against mild infection of a Covid-19 strain dominant in the region.
The country is expected to receive doses of the shot as part of its program to immunize 60% of the population after the World Health Organization recommended its use, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We have received a letter from the Covax facility stating that Namibia can expect to be distributed doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine during mid- or late-February,” he said.
South Africa chose to start its immunization with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after tests showed the Astra shot offered less protection against mild infection caused by the new strain that was first identified in the country and has since spread across southern Africa and elsewhere. It’s unclear how effective the Astra vaccine is against severe infection.
The health ministry was still investigating whether the South African variant is prevalent in Namibia, Shangula said. Apart from Covax, a WHO facility to help ensure equitable access to vaccines, the government is also in talks with manufacturers in China, Russia, India and the U.S., he said.
China will donate 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm shot to Namibia, which is one of the Asian nation’s priority countries to buy its vaccines, according to Zhang Yiming, the Chinese ambassador to Namibia.
Namibia, with a population of 2.5 million people, has recorded about 36,000 cases of the virus and almost 400 deaths.