Another drive thru initiative coming soon, to spread to other centres
Covid19 booster shots have always been an agenda item -Nyanga
The Ministry of Health and Wellness will have the last laugh at how well it is performing in containing the spread of Covid-19 coupled with herd immunity and continued arrival of vaccines into the country. Vaccine roll out is halted for a day or two at the very maximum when jabs run out but nothing more giving the impression that all is good and well with regards to vaccination of the masses. Sources close to the University of Botswana have also revealed the ongoing vaccination of medical students and those in health sciences, an exception also in place for health science students in other higher leaning institutions offering similar courses.
While there is no clear evidence of publicized information on the targeted vaccination of the student population, sources close to the institution have further revealed that the intentions were communicated internally. Moreover, any decisions taken at institutional level are predetermined by what transpires at government; as such education students were also catered for once the teaching staff was determined as front liners deserving of the vaccine earlier this year. UB Student Representative Council President Carter Joseph explained that the roll out for students in question commenced immediately after the first lockdown and is still ongoing. Moreover, updated statistics on number of students vaccinated thus far is occasionally shared with the student population. The SRC is aware that the criteria for the specific roll out was mainly because students in the aforementioned departments go into health facilities and mix with patients hence at a higher risk of infection.
MoHW Chief Public Relations Officer, Dr Christopher Nyanga also confirmed the inclusion of some students in certain fields in the frontliners list. “Students in the health care sciences fields are considered front liners because as part of their training, they rotate in health facilities in order to acquire skills and experience in the field. Since the world, including Botswana, is going through a pandemic, it was necessary and appropriate that they be prioritized in COVID-19 vaccination like all other health care workers,” he explained. In what would be considered further amazing moves by MoHW, there are prospects of resuming the drive thru initiative in the near future depending on the availability of vaccines. The drive thru initiative was a pilot project in Gaborone and preliminary assessment of the initiative shows that it was a resounding success as defined by Nyanga. The ministry will therefore, explore possibilities of continuing with the drive thru initiative in the near future, including extending it to other areas across the country.
Following reports at international level on the possibility of considerations for Johnson & Johnson Booster, Nyanga has emphasized a need for the public to not be concerned with such reports; acknowledging that the issue of COVID-19 vaccines’ booster shots has always been an agenda item in the COVID-19 research community. “It does not mean that current COVID-19 vaccines do not provide enough protection against the disease. Research has so far proved that vaccines do protect people against severe disease symptoms, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. However, there are also indications within ongoing research that some people who received COVID-19 vaccination, including the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, may in future, require booster doses, when the protection given by the previous shot or shots, would have begun to decrease,” he mentioned.
According to Nyanga, the ministry will keep an eye on the issue, and will at the right time, and on the basis of expert advice, consider whether it should offer booster doses or not. Despite rumored effects of vaccines on some patients who have taken the dose such as swelling of the legs, MoHW has not received reports of any unusual or uncommon side effects associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The side effects so far experienced include but are not limited to; pain or swelling on the body part where the needle was inserted during vaccination, headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, cough, muscle pain, rash and diarrhea. These side effects ranged from mild to moderate. Despite the fact that enough vaccines for the country’s adult population have been secured, MoHW still experiences challenges and the main challenges faced by the ministry relate to vaccine availability. “Owing to high global demand, which has outstripped supply, it has not been possible for vaccines to be delivered in the country within the dates and quantities expected. As a result, the ministry has not been able to proceed with the vaccination process, as quickly as it would have wished, given the intermittent arrival of vaccines in the country,” Nyanga said.
In addition, the ministry has also experienced other challenges like shortage of resources, in the form of financial, human and medical equipment needed to keep up with the demands of the pandemic, especially at the height of the third wave in July and August 2021. Interventions like acquisitions of medical supplies such as oxygen plants and concentrators and recruitment of additional staff were undertaken at that time, in order to help mitigate the then deteriorating situation. More efforts include partnerships with the private medical sector in the vaccination processes. Evidence of this great partnership can further be cemented by site visits to different private health centers and facilities by MoHW Edwin Dikoloti whose mission is to establish how well private sector healthcare and distributors are doing in the mist of Covid-19 and how best the ministry can intervene where need be.