Namibia to make $1.74 mln upfront payment to global vaccine scheme

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WINDHOEK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Namibia has approved an upfront payment of 26.4 million Namibian dollars ($1.74 million) to the COVAX global COVID-19 vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization, a senior health ministry official said on Thursday.

The nation of 2.5 million people has registered just over 14,000 COVID-19 cases with 147 deaths, but its mining and tourism-depended economy has been severely hit by the pandemic.

Unlike many other African countries, Namibia does not qualify for subsidised vaccines under the COVAX scheme because it is classified as an upper-middle-income country, like neighbours South Africa and Botswana.

Ben Nangombe, executive director in the health ministry, told Reuters that Namibia plans to make the payment as early as next week, giving it the option to buy coronavirus vaccines for 20% of its population.

He added that Namibia was also considering bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers if the need arises, but for now, COVAX was its preferred procurement route.

"We are not putting all our eggs in one basket, we will look at other options even at bilateral level to see whether we will be able to acquire these vaccines through other means. But for now we are committed to the COVAX facility," Nangombe said.

"We would want to get a product that is easy to manage, easy to roll out and easy to administer."

($1 = 15.2020 Namibian dollars) (Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Peter Graff)