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Lesotho awaits Astrazeneca vaccine

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…country will utilize vaccine without testing its efficacy against SA 2nd wave variant

Matšeliso Sehloho

Despite a public outcry caused by the mishaps in the acquisition, storage and administration of the Astrazeneca vaccine to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in neighbouring South Africa, Lesotho has vowed to acquire the similar vaccine to and use it on its citizens without any further tests to it.

The vaccine was trialed on a number of volunteers to assess its efficacy where tests initially suggested it was found ineffective against the alleged South African variant of the virus.

Now Lesotho Minister of Health Semano Sekatle says they will still forge ahead with acquiring the same vaccine for Basotho pending pronouncement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) about whether Lesotho can be classified as being in the first of second wave of the pandemic in spite of its proximity to South Africa which is battling with the second wave.

Sekatle maintains that the Astrazaneca vaccine is what the country has been awaiting for April, adding that that stance remains.

The vaccine which has forced South Africa to rethink its Covid-19 vaccine measures, is also what the Kingdom of Eswatini was banking on for its fight against Covid-19 as well.

However, Eswatitni has since changed its stance on the vaccine on the basis that due to its physical geographical proximity to the giant South African neighbour, which is ironically Lesotho’s only neighbour, it will no longer be considering Astrezaneca.

The Swazi Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi told Reuters this week that although they have not been confirmed as being on the second wave, their proximity to the republic suffices for them to take precautionary measures as though they are in the second wave. The country has recorded more than 16000 Covid-19 cases, 610 of whom have succumbed to death due to Covid-19 related complications.

According to Sekatle, Astrazaneca remains the vaccine of choice for Lesotho because it was the only cheaper one. He further explained that it was also the only vaccine that Lesotho could manage storage for, unlike other vaccines that would require the construction of an upward of 60 new storage plants, thus more money having to be spent.

The minister of health further explained that Lesotho does not have the authority to buy the drug on its own, that’s why the country will rely solely on WHO for confirmation of the drug, adding that once the vaccine arrives in Lesotho, there will not be any further tests done regarding the efficiency of the drug, as they believe WHO would not recommend and give approval to a vaccine if it had further bad side effects such as was the case in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer of the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) Phenethi Baroane, reiterated that there would not be any additional testing done to the vaccine once it lands in the country as WHO would have done all the necessary vetting, moreover, Lesotho does not have the necessary means nor capacity to test the efficiency of the drug, unlike in South Africa where they did their own testing after the vaccine had arrived.

On the another hand, Baroane said that Lesotho is still in the dark as to whether it is still in the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic or if it has escalated to the new variant or second wave. He pointed out that the nation is still unsure at the exact stage at which the country is in terms of the rampant virus.

“One can just guess that the first Covid-19 pandemic has mutated to the new variant looking back at the death rate compared to when it first erupted. I think it may be safe to assume that we are on the second wave even though WHO has not yet said anything,” Baroane went on.

Meanwhile, the African Union has released a statement concerning the efficacy of the Astrazeneca vaccine in regards to the new variant first recorded in South Africa. The statement cleared the exasperation concerning the vaccine and advised that countries that have not yet experienced the second wave of the virus can go on and use the vaccine.

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