Ministry of health and social Services Kalumbi Shangula has established a technical team to implement the requirements for the storage, transport and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Once these (requirements) become known, the ministry will put them in place. Namibia has been following closely the development of vaccines in the world. The health ministry established a technical team for this purpose,” he said.
Vaccination programmes are costly, owing to the cold chain (the process by which the vaccine is kept below freezing point until it is applied), which costs between US$200 and US$300 million (about N$3 billion to N$4,5 billion) per year and can account for up to 80% of overall vaccination costs, according to research.
Namibia, like many African countries without the best Covid-19 vaccine storage infrastructure, will need to dig deeper into its pockets to cater for the remedy, which needs to be stored under extra cold conditions of between minus 20 to minus 80 degrees Celsius. This will be on top of the about N$29 million Treasury paid as deposit to show commitment for accessing the Covax facility meant to allow poor-to-middle-income countries access to the Covid-19 remedy when mass distribution commences.
Currently Namibia’s central medical stores does not have the facilities tailor made for Covid-19 vaccines. The expenditure challenge for Namibia comes after American companies Pfizer Inc and Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc developed vaccines that have been deemed fit for consumption passing a more than 90% efficacy test. Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be kept extremely cold: minus 70 degrees Celsius, which is colder than winter in Antarctica. Moderna has said that its vaccine needs to be frozen too, but only at minus 20 degrees Celsius, more like a regular freezer.
The American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech SE, were among the first companies to indicate they were developing a vaccine. The vaccine has been found to prevent more than 90% of infections in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers.
With the vaccine, the country targets 20% of the population, mainly healthcare workers and vulnerable Namibians. The World Health Organisation has revealed the cost of rolling out the vaccine in Africa will be an estimated N$85 billion (US$5,7 million).