Vaccine fatigue breeding potential for fourth wave

Despite Namibia being is one of the countries that have narrowly met the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target for 10 percent of their populations to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of September, vaccine fatigue appears to be creeping in which is a recipe for another deadly wave.

We note with concern that the health ministry has spent just over N$1 billion on the Covid-19 pandemic, yet very little is being done get more people inoculated. The bulk of this spend – N$195 million – went to staff expenses, followed by N$177 million in quarantine costs. A total of N$80 million has been used to acquire Covid-19 vaccines, while N$11 million was used for the procurement of clinical supplies.

While this spending may well be justifiable, it remains critical to pour more investment in awareness campaigns as there are numerous misconceptions and myths around the vaccines. People need to be aware that vaccines are the panacea to the pandemic. We should not fool ourselves that the warm weather will protect us from the virus. Of course, new cases and deaths from coronavirus are going down, but scientists maintain that the link between the weather and Covid-19 is complicated.

Over the last year, vaccine abstainers have given various reasons for not accepting Covid-19 vaccination. These include worry about the side-effects of the vaccine, fear that the development of the vaccines was too fast and that safety corners may well have been cut while other are simply against all vaccines.

To address this vaccine hesitancy challenge, responsible authorities need to realise that where electronic and print media communication is inappropriate, strategies need to be created which will be culturally and language appropriate.

We also cannot deny that the real prospects of a fourth wave post the festive season are real and again we reiterate that now more than ever, the government needs to develop a comprehensive framework for engaging with the private sector. Private facilities contribute significantly to healthcare provision and it’s common for routine vaccination to be done in private facilities on behalf of, and with support from, the government.

Indeed, what is not a secret at this juncture is the fact that only a fluid and collective strategy will allow us to progress faster towards herd immunity. Without involvement of other key players in the private sector, it will be difficult to contain Covid-19, whose threat to national recovery has been a thorn in Namibia’s flesh.

Inoculation will remain snail paced if officials do not acknowledge the challenges and commit to new nuanced approaches. The public will understand if initial goals need to be revised, but there must be willingness to learn from missteps and immediately course-correct. While government is called upon to do more, the broader community must do even more if this scourge is to be nipped in the bud.