Govt engaging Russia on vaccine

By Shallot Mohutege

HEALTH and Social Services minister, Dr Kalumbi Shangula stated that the Namibian government is engaging with Russia regarding the development of a Covid-19 vaccine given the two countries’ historical strong bilateral relations.

“We welcome all developments to find the Covid-19 vaccine. Whenever a vaccine becomes available which has been approved to be authentic, we will try to have access to it,” Shangula said.

The minister further stated that Russia is one of the countries Namibia is closely in contact with regarding the Covid-19 vaccine.

“The subject of a Covid-19 vaccine has become topical. Namibia has been engaging the international community regarding the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in recent months and weeks. Through the COVAX Facility, we have participated in several meetings and interactions on this matter.”

More information will be provided to the public in the coming weeks through regular updates said Shangula, adding that as the Namibian government continues to engage Russia, they are motivated by the notion that when a safe and effective vaccine becomes available, Namibians should be able to access it.

Distribution of the Russian vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ is set to begin in November and was approved by the Russian Ministry of Health in August. According to Russian ambassador to Namibia, Valeriy Utkin, the Sputnik V vaccine had shown its effectiveness and safety on the outcomes of clinical trials. Meanwhile phase three of randomised clinical trials already started in Russia with results expected soon.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health has acquired a Covid-19 treatment drug and received the first batch of the antiviral drug, remdesivir last week.

The drug was first issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration in May after a study indicated it reduced recovery time in Covid-19 patients.

Shangula added remdesivir was considered the most effective in the world at the moment and has been making a difference globally in the management of severe Covid-19 cases.

In May this year, US President Donald Trump announced that the investigational antiviral drug, produced by Gilead Sciences, was authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use to treat suspected or laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 in adults and children hospitalised with severe disease. The drug can be used on children from 12 years old to adults.