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By: Andrew Kathindi

The Namibia Defence Force (NDF) members will be subjected to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, with immediate effect from 29 September 2021, the NDF chief, Air Marshall Martin Pinehas, has announced.

Defence minister Frans Kapofi has defended the move.

The Villager wanted to understand whether this was not contradictory to what President Hage Geingob said in the last Covid-19 briefing, where he said none would be forced to take the jab.

“Why is it not important in the first place? So, your question is, why was the decision taken that they should be vaccinated? The CDF is mandated to make rules and regulations governing the defence force as per the defence Act as he sees and deems fit. So, therefore I think he has considered all aspects related to the health of his force, and as such, he made such a decision,” he said.

Kapofi denied that this was contradictory to what President said a few weeks ago at a Covid press briefing where he called for people to get the jab but insisted that none would be forced.

“The President has not said that people should not be vaccinated. What is the issue now? Are you looking for s contradiction, or are you looking for why the CDF has taken such a decision? What is the issue?” he said.

Pressed on the next course of action if soldiers refuse the vaccine, Kapofi said he did not foresee such a scenario playing out.

“I don’t think there will be any resistance to that. I don’t think there are people within the force who do not see the need for vaccination. I cannot answer that because I don’t foresee that happening. I can’t speak about “What about?”, “What if?” because that is not what we expect,” he said.

According to Pineas, social media misinformation regarding COVID-19 has led to vaccination reluctance, decreasing immunisation coverage and the loss of lives of many NDF members.

According to the latest details thus far, 273 262 people in Namibia have received at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 175 352 have received two doses.

“Given propaganda surrounding the immunisation and the threat of the imminent 4th wave, it is a sad state that, as the front-line institution, we have not yet been able to attain “herd immunity” amongst our members. We are thus unable to protect the person we are constitutionally mandated to protect sufficiently.”

Commanders in the NDF have been given a directive to see to the full compliance of the order.

The NDF said they would not tolerate any exemptions to the compulsory jab based on religious, philosophical or personal beliefs.

However, NDF members will have the liberty to choose the vaccine they want.

Currently, Namibia has five different types of COVID-19 vaccines, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Pfizer and J&J.

According to the NDF chief, members with underlying disorders of immunity that place them at higher risk for complications; members with hypersensitivity and those with allergies to the vaccine will be exempted where such immunisation would cause severe impairment, ill-health or cause death.

“The said exemptions can, however, only be granted following an adequate medical justification based on a list of the recognised medical practitioner and in addition a confirmatory clearance letter by our health services,” says Pineas.

According to the official order dated 29 September 2021, the NDF made the order under section 81 of the Defence Act 2002.

The Act states that any defence force member or any auxiliary services, medical service or reserve force may be required to submit to immunisation or prophylaxis against such contagious, infectious or epidemic illness as may be determined from time to time by an authority.

The Act further states that the NDF may carry out this compulsory immunisation or prevention through vaccination or injection with, or oral administration of, the specific prophylactic medicament determined for the purpose by a registered medical officer.

The decision comes as President Hage Geingob had previously stated that the vaccine would take the vaccine voluntarily.

Julia Heita

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