Too few Namibians are getting vaccinated and this could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on society.
The COVID-19 vaccines have since their introduction globally at the start of 2021 been held up as one of the primary ways that the world can exit the pandemic.
For that to happen there needs to be an adequate supply of vaccines and widespread acceptance and uptake of the vaccines. However, both of these have been a challenge, globally.
Namibia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, which started in mid-March 2021, has been hampered by both vaccine undersupply and vaccine skepticism and hesitancy – probably fuelled by rampant anti-vaccine propaganda and disinformation – from the start.
This despite new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus being detected all the time and evidence that the unvaccinated, especially those in at-risk groups, being significantly more prone to severe disease and hospitalisation as a result of infection.
What the data say
Namibia’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is too low and too slow.
Figures reported by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS) show that the rate of vaccination has sharply declined month-on-month for the period September – November 2021.
In fact, the rate has never been what it was supposed to be, given that by the end of September 2021 Namibia was supposed to have vaccinated 10% of the country’s population, but failed to meet this target. The 10% target was a global goal set during the 74th World Health Assembly, held under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) from 24-31 May 2021.
MHSS data shows a 48% drop in monthly vaccinations from September through November 2021.
Furthermore, MHSS reported data show that while 76,883 people became fully vaccinated in October 2021, only 46,957 became fully vaccinated in November 2021. That’s a 39% decrease in the month-on-month fully vaccinated rate.
Put another way, the daily average for people becoming fully vaccinated was 2,480 in October 2021, while in November 2021 it was almost a thousand less, at 1,565 becoming fully vaccinated per day.
And the rate continues to decline. For the period 1-20 December 2021, MHSS reported data show that 23,276 people had become fully vaccinated, at a daily average of 1,164.
What needs to happen
In order to get people to vaccinate Namibian health authorities need to do a lot more than passively encouraging people to vaccinate.
There needs to be wall-to-wall communication on every aspect of every vaccine on a round-the-clock basis, in every language, as it remains concerning that very many people still appear not to know much about the available vaccines or what the vaccines are supposed to do.
In the absence of an aggressive and comprehensive communication and messaging strategy, anti-vaccine propaganda and disinformation will continue to pervade the COVID-19 information landscape and sour perceptions of government actions and interventions.
With Namibia facing the situation of thousands of vaccine doses expiring because there’s no uptake, if the country wants to avoid the potential devastation of future SARS-CoV-2 variants, then people have to be assured and persuaded to get vaccinated.