Lesotho received its first tranche of the Covid-19 vaccine this week. The delivery comprised of 36 000 doses of the AstraZeneca which was delivered by land from South Africa although it has been said to be coming straight from its producers in India.
Speaking at the event to receive the consignment at the health ministry headquarters in Maseru, Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro indicated that the vaccine will be used to vaccinate 36,000 Basotho to prevent them from getting sick or die due to Covid-19.
â€œThis is only the first batch of the vaccine and the second batch is expected to arrive before April and were expecting to have received more than 132, 000 doses and as they arrive we will continue to vaccinate Basotho people so that we start decreasing the number of people who could be infected with Covid-19. We have about 2 million and our plan as the country is to vaccinate all people aged 16 and above,â€ he said.
Majoro indicated that they have a target to vaccinate about 1.6 million Basotho which is about 60%.
â€œIt said that to say a country is safe, 60% of the population must be vaccinated. However we will make all means to vaccinate all people who are 16 years and above,â€ he said.
â€œApart from these vaccines that have come straight from India from Covax which is meant to make sure that all developing countries receive vaccines in time same as rich countries, we were expecting to receive vaccines that can be used on 430,000 people. Meanwhile, from the African Union, we will get the vaccine that will be used on 400,000 people but immediately when they have communicated we will know the exact numbers. Basotho business owners have also come together and they are at an advanced stage of their plan to also contribute in the acquisition of a vaccine,â€ he said.
Speaking at the same event, the Minister Health Semano Sekatle, expressed his delight and gratitude for receivfing the vaccine as a country.
â€œWe hope sooner than later we are going to receive more of the vaccine, it is quiet important that we have vaccinate Basotho as quickly as possible and complete with the process in record time. We therefore appeal to those who are helping us to get the vaccine here to do so urgently and I believe in the ability to do so,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, the Country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Richard Banda introduced a team of Medical Experts in the country to support the pandemic response.
â€œThe vaccine is a game-changer but we still have different aspects of the response one of them being treatment for patients. It has been a year now but see that the cases that are coming up are putting enormous pressure on the Health Services in the country. So with support from the British High Commission I am very pleased to introduce a team of medical experts who will be in the country for one month and will be based in Berea and Mafeteng but their role not be limited that they will support mentorship in district hospitals to make sure that treatment even in that lowest health service delivery is up and full operational.
Addressing the issue of where the vaccine came from, seeing as it was driven in a South African truck registration number DR 80 PD GP, on the backdrop of the fact that South Africa had rejected the Astrazaneca and even gotten rid of it, Dr â€˜Makhoase Ranyali from the Ministry of Health, indicated that, all was above board.
â€œFrom where they are manufactured they are transported with up-to-standard airplanes that have all that it takes to keep the vaccine in good terms like appropriate temperatures for the vaccine. Normally the airplanes that are used are that of Qatar and their route ends in South Africa they do not come in the country. If it was possible that Qatar airplanes come in the country the vaccine would have arrived by airplane not in a truck,â€ she said.
Ranyali stated that of the 36,000 doses of vaccine that the country has received, 35 000 will be allocated to health professionals with the remainder being allocated for other frontlines.
For his part, Risk Communication Manager at the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) Baroane Phenethi reiterated Ranyaliâ€™s view saying that it did not really matter the node of transport ferrying the vaccine.
â€œTransporting the vaccine with a truck or airplane is one and the same thing. People should not be confused by the mode of transport used. The only important thing is time and the vaccine arrived in the country the exact time it was said it will arriveâ€.