DHMTs adopt strategies to minimize congestion at sites
Drive-through vaccination sites planned
“We offer second jab to people who got first jab outside the country”-MoHW
Scientific concerns over vaccine efficiency
Efforts have been put in place by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) to address challenges identified in the previous vaccine rollout program, which saw near stampede and congestion at vaccination sites, which resulted in violation of Covid-19 protocols.
According to MoHW Chief Public Relations Officer, Christopher Nyanga, District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) across the country have adopted some strategies to minimize congestions at vaccination sites to mitigate violation of protocols. These include a registration system where they only register the number that they will be able to vaccinate on a given day. “Those who would not have been registered for that day, would be asked to come the following day. This limits the number of people who will be queuing at our vaccination sites and eventually end up not being vaccinated on that day,” Nyanga added. The Ministry has also taken the step towards a partnership with the private medical sector to offer their premises as vaccination points for better output. More efforts include an increase in vaccination sites in all DHMTs and an increase in trained vaccinators to curb delayed queueing. Nyanga further said that given the reduction in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the number of vaccines that have so far arrived in the country, those expected and also the level of knowledge about COVID-19 in the country, the ministry is so far satisfied that the country can cautiously begin to open up the economy.
Nyanga said given the reduction in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, the number of vaccines that have so far arrived in the country, those expected and also the level of knowledge about COVID-19 in the country, the ministry is so far satisfied that the country can cautiously begin to open up the economy. In addition, the ministry will keep an eye on the disease burden in the country post State of Emergency (SOE), and if need be, take the necessary steps through existing laws like the Public Health Act, to avert any possible surge in COVID-19 infections. “The position of the ministry is that even as the country exits the SOE, it should not be business as usual. COVID-19 infections may be going down now but the pandemic is still with us,” he added. Moreover, the ministry urges all to remain vigilant and continue following COVID-19 protocols to avoid any resurgence of infections; in that way, the economy can slowly but surely move on.
Nyanga confirmed that generally the vaccine roll out program has been going well; and the ministry has succeeded in educating Batswana about the disease including how they can best protect themselves against it. Moreover, the ministry has similarly sensitized Batswana about vaccination and the benefits that come with it and areas in Botswana have been reached including the hard-to-reach areas. “Botswana’s approach to COVID-19 vaccination is guided by principles of equity, fairness and access by all. Specific attention has been paid to the people in hard-to-reach areas, some of whom may be of low economic status, low levels of education and poor health seeking behavior,” he said. Nyanga added that the ministry has made deliberate efforts to reach such people and get them vaccinated and as a result, no one is being disadvantaged on account of any circumstances that they find themselves in.
According to Nyanga, there have been some challenges which played a role in the pace of the vaccination rollout program but the main challenge to a speedy vaccination process remains the slow arrival of vaccines in the country. “Although the Government of Botswana has secured enough vaccines for all its adult population through a multiplicity of platforms like COVAX, AVAT,bilateral and through diplomatic channels; high global demand has always outstripped supply making it difficult for manufacturers to deliver within the expected timelines. This challenge however, is not peculiar to Botswana but is also common across countries, especially in the African region where there have not been any COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing companies,” he explained. Moreover, the ministry has plans to introduce a drive through vaccination system and this will be unveiled in the coming weeks in Gaborone with a view to also extending it to Francistown. MoHW expects that if all secured vaccines are delivered as expected, the ministry should have vaccinated at least 80% of its adult population by March 2022.
Conversation at a media training conducted by the MoHW revealed that the country offers a second dose of anyone of the vaccines, as and when available to people who may have gotten their first jab outside the country. Speaking at the training, Doctor Oratile Mfokeng-Selei, a public health specialist, emphasized the need for people to step up and get vaccinated for Covid-19, especially the second dose of anyone of the double dose vaccine except for Johnson & Johnson which is a single dose. Moreover, she explained that they are currently not mixing any vaccines and that such a situation would only occur if there were to be a vaccine shortage around the country; after which an official announcement would be made for people to mix their vaccine doses. While there has been a considerable number of some Batswana crossing the border to neighboring countries for vaccination also known as vaccine tourism, there are plan sin place to establish a monitoring system for vaccine tourism at ports of entry in order to capture their data.
Questions have in the past and still continue to be raised regarding the complete safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and whether or not the nation at large including remote areas understand the situation at hand. Lea Roodt is a qualified Immunologist and a member of a group of medical experts styled Botswana Covid19 Ivermectin Intervention Group (BCIIG); and while she has emphasized that she is not against the vaccine, but that scientific studies have revealed the current Covid-19 vaccines as leaky vaccines thereby causing a mutation of the virus rather than curbing its spread. “I am not anti-vaccines and have taken vaccines during my childhood. I also am not a pharmacist by profession and cannot tell the exact components of the vaccine; however, the efficiency of the vaccine can be questioned as it was created in just a few months contrary to childhood vaccines which took years to perfect,” she explained.
Roodt is a firm follower of Geert Vanden Bossche, an independent virologist, and vaccine expert, formerly of GAVI, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; who has also continued to share scientific proof on the dangers of the Covid-19 vaccines. “I have been following Geert since December and what he has been saying is what has been happening with mutations. Roodt explained viruses to be scientifically described as primitive in nature, which means they are inclined to change. She also added that the Covid-19 virus is not forming a resistance but is changing as is the nature for it to develop other mechanisms to survive making it difficult to properly treat.