By: Kelvin Chiringa
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula has now been asked by lawmakers in the National Assembly to come out clear on whether Namibia will take the mandatory vaccination route or not.
Fears of mandatory or forced vaccination have abounded at the back of US President Joe Biden having signed an executive order that would mean that about 100 million Americans will have to be jabbed, whether they like it or not.
A Namibia Media Holdings (NMH) job advert for a sound and light engineer sound requesting a Covid vaccination as condition to get the position has also raised eye-brows.
The mandatory vaccination push is meant out-march the ever-mutating Covid-19 virus to achieve head immunity.
A successful vaccination is also being touted in economic circles to translate to economic growth.
However, some quarters have expressed that the vaccination drive is now coming at the cost of personal fundamental freedoms, particularly the freedom to choose.
With a video of first lady Monica Geingos having gone viral saying that no one who hasn’t been vaccinated was welcome at her home, Shangula will now have to explain what Namibia’s position is on mandatory vaccination.
“There have been numerous talks among the public that there are plans to force employees to be vaccinated or face being retrenched. This comes mostly from the health care and hospitality sector. Public media briefings have said that vaccines will be voluntary rather than mandatory force.
“Yet the more your ministry is failing to openly provide information on the vaccine do we find more and more people opting not to be voluntarily vaccinated,” said Republican Party lawmaker Herlinde Tjiveze.
Shangula has been asked to also explain what the legal position of his ministry currently is regarding this issue.
He also has to answer to whether the ministry has procured the requisite vaccines to achieve 70% head immunity.
“Is the ministry of health able to provide after-care support to the many who have suffered extreme side effects or loss of lives from the vaccines?” she pressed.
Africa’s race towards head immunity has been booby-trapped by vaccine apathy but also difficulties in vaccine procurement.
Most countries have had to rely on donations.
But the more the virus is mutating and apathy continue, the more some global leaders appear to be losing patience.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden is quoted as saying.
According to CNN, the US president’s tone seems to be “hardening toward Americans who still refuse to receive a vaccine despite ample evidence of their safety and full approval of one — the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine — from the US Food and Drug Administration”.
“He said vaccinated America was growing “frustrated” with the 80 million people who have not received shots and are fueling the spread of the virus. And he acknowledged the new steps would not provide a quick fix,” the global media outlet has reported.
Biden is further quoted as saying, “While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact: We’re in a tough stretch and it could last for a while.”
In the US, by the executive order of the president, businesses with 100+ workers will have to ask them to take a Covid shot.
Protests have flared up in Quebec and Italy these past few days.
In Canada, mandatory vaccination has also been supported by some unions while in Zimbabwe, justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, went on record last week that government workers opposed to the jab should rather quit.
The Canadian federal government has announced in August already that it will make jabs mandatory for federal employees and some working in federally regulated industries that are related to travel.
To that effect, vaccines for federal employees are intended to be procured by the end of September.
Employees to be targeted are those in the transport sector, aviation, rails as well as cruise ships.
Namibia has been seen to be taking its notes from the WHO during the pandemic period as well as from global trends.
This has created strong anticipation that Namibian may want to take that route.
President Hage Geingob however, as of late, has made it clear that vaccines will not be forced but the question that has reared its head is, how long will he stick by this word?
Meanwhile, outside the scope of vaccines, official opposition leader McHenry Venaani, also wants Shangula to break down how much money has been used to fight the Covid-pandemic.
His push comes at the back of suspicions of corruption in the health sector with the Namibia Nurses Union Junias Shilunga recently telling a conference, “Covid money is easy money”.
The union has advised Venaani to pressurise Shangula to carry out an audit into his ministry dating to as far back as the early 90s.