Ministry of Health diversifies sources


Botswana’s vaccination plans have suffered a setback following an announcement by The Serum Institute of India (SII) that as many as 90 million doses of the shot destined for the COVAX initiative worldwide will be delayed through the end of April as India’s government grapples with a spike in infections in the country’s 1.4 billion people.

The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Kabelo Ebineng, has told The Botswana Gazette that as a result of the delay, the government is currently engaging other manufacturers to procure COVID-19 vaccines.

“We had long indicated that government has ordered different COVID-19 vaccines from various platforms and India is part of it,” said Ebineng, adding that although this has greatly affected their efforts, they are hopeful that other manufacturers will help.

He disclosed that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has authorised the health ministry to look at multiple sources because in addition to its own upsurge in infections, India is overstretched because it supplies vaccines to 180 countries around the world.

“We were working throughout the weekend to find alternative sources by approaching different manufacturers so that we continue with the rollout of the vaccine” Ebineng said, adding that the 30 000 doses of Covishield vaccine that was recently donated by the Indian government has run out. “We are currently rolling out the second consignment,” he noted.

Botswana finds itself racing against time after scientists predicted the coming of more waves, prompting countries to speed up their vaccination programmes towards achieving herd immunity.

After the Indian donation of 30 000 doses of Covishield, Botswana received a similar quantity of vaccines through donations and procurement the through the COVAX facility. This has seen vaccination commencing throughout the country, targeting frontline workers and the elderly first.

When he received 33 600 doses at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport recently, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said Botswana was determined to save humanity by ordering more vaccines. He referred to President Mokgweetsi Masisi remarks that the government is so committed to fighting the scourge that it could even forgo certain development projects.

Tsogwane assured the nation that everyone, including politicians, will be vaccinated when their turn comes.

Earlier this year, Government announced that it had identified different platforms for the procurement of vaccines, adding that payments approximating US$10million have already been made, in order to secure the various vaccines. It was further announced that the allocation is population based and three platforms were shared.

Government said COVAX facility will be a platform through which enough doses are secured to cover its frontline workers, while the African Medical Supplies Platform through African Union (AU) has been able to secure a provisional 270 million for Africa—from which Botswana will receive its share, and lastly the engagement of Private sector.