Botswana's health authorities say they have arranged to receive nearly 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, enough to cover the entire adult population. If every adult takes the vaccine, Botswana could become the first country in Africa to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
In a televised address Monday, Mosepele Mosepele, deputy coordinator of the Botswana Presidential COVID-19 Task Force, said the country reached agreements with vaccine manufacturers to supply doses to cover 1.9 million people. Botswana has an adult population of 1.6 million, but noncitizens are also eligible for the vaccine, Mosepele added.
Botswana received 60,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine from India and the COVAX facility last month. Mosepele said the uptake of the vaccine has been impressive, with 47,160 receiving the jab since March 26.
Mosepele said he is not sure when the 1.9 million doses will arrive, but that the largest portion of the pending shipment is from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to deliver 1.1 million doses of its one-shot vaccine.
In the meantime, the government this week received 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China.
Kabo Morwaeng, Botswana's minister of presidential affairs, urged people to take the Sinovac doses.
"I also wish to implore all those who may be reluctant to do so, to step up and take their jabs. This process is intended for the good of all of us," he said. "I must assure you that our health authorities, through the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BOMRA), will continue to ascertain that the vaccines we receive are safe for use by all of us."
Earlier this month, two people died after receiving the Covishield vaccine. BOMRA is investigating the incident.
Botswana Nurses Union spokesperson Aobakwe Lesolame said the government needs to speedily roll out the vaccination campaign once the doses arrive.
"We are pleading with the ministry (of health) that as these vaccines continue to arrive, they make sure that they roll out the strategy, very clear, very basic, very simple (and) disseminate across structures so that everybody can take part," Lesolame said. "The vaccine rollout plan should focus on using community halls so that we ease the burden on public health facilities."
Botswana has recorded 702 deaths from COVID-19, with February and March being the deadliest months. Authorities have confirmed 46,000 cases of the virus overall.