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BFTU raises COVID-19 vaccine concerns

GOITSEMODIMO KAELO
COVID 19 jab PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) has lamented government’s  handling of COVID-19 vaccine procurement and lack of a clear cut vaccination programme.

With over 148 000 people having received the first COVID-19 jab, the federation is of the view that this is not enough for the country as many people continue to succumb to disease.   

The federation has said it is disturbed about the government’s handling, management and pace of COVID-19 vaccine procurement which it said is clearly not at par with the threat facing the entire nation owing to the increasing variation in the manifestation of the virus across the globe.

BFTU’s secretary general, Thusang Butale said while they acknowledge the recent delivery of vaccines, which according to government media advisory, was secured through the UN’s COVAX facility at the instance of UNICEF Botswana, the federation is concerned that the doses are far from adequate.

The vaccines which were expected on May 29 and June 3, 2021 respectively are in the tune of 38 400 doses of AstraZeneca and 19 890 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines respectively.

“BFTU however is strongly concerned that the doses are far from adequate in proportion to both the total number of our population of approximately two million people and in comparison to the conspicuously swift and ordinate response of the rest of the world community,” said Butale.

Butale said whilst there is talk of different variants of the virus spreading rapidly, second and or third waves of the virus, and therefore the second dose of the vaccine covering wide sections of populations, Botswana does not seem keen on taking advantage of its relatively small population to extend vaccination to a much wider part of it, if not the rest of it.

“Had government not wasted time waiting upon donations and embarked on a clear cut programme and proper and timely procurement of vaccines, a vast number of the population would by far have been vaccinated and now due for second round of the process,” he said.

The federation also expressed yet another concern about government’s target population for this round of vaccination,

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which is the adult age range of 55 and above. It said this targeted population is far too low when gauged against the two million population. Butale says no convincing reason has been advanced as to why it should be limited to such a small population rather than the entire population.

Butale said even assuming without conceding that 55 years and above is identified on the basis of its vulnerability, there is in fact more evidence indicating that the youth is the most mobile section of the population and therefore most exposed to infection and transmission of the virus.

“Consequently, the exclusion of young people if not revisited reduces the fight against the corona virus to a losing battle. The earnest view of the BFTU is that despite the economic challenges especially resulting from COVID-19, it is unreasonable and unfathomable why a small population of two million or any part of it for that matter, should face the imminent risk of being decimated in spite of an economy boasting one of the best foreign reserves and highest Per Capita income,” Butale added.

The federation said despite the country being in the midst of a crisis presented by the pandemic, there is an observable trend of corrupt or unethical practice within government and politicians, of fighting over and profiteering from the provision of essential supplies, even to the detriment of masses of unprotected citizens; just like what happened during the BOTS-50 where public funds were misused through what seemed like legitimate tendering without anybody responsible to render due account.

According to Butale, the federation’s view is that government should have a clear-cut plan of how it intends proceeding with the vaccinations and not an abrupt and adhoc action plan. “For example, we should already be knowing the target populations and timelines for vaccinations. Government should also act and categorically speak against and deal with corruption in the procurement processes regarding COVID-19 essential supplies.”



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