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Namibia to suspend first doses as COVID-19 vaccine supplies run low - memo

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Vials labelled "Astra Zeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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WINDHOEK, June 26 (Reuters) - Namibia will from Tuesday temporarily suspend administering first doses of COVID-19 vaccines as supplies run low, a health ministry memo seen by Reuters showed.

The southern African nation, in the midst of a deadly "third wave" of infections, recorded more than 2,500 new cases on Thursday, the highest daily tally since the virus was first detected in the country in March last year.

The memo seen by Reuters said vaccine stocks had almost been depleted due to delays in the delivery of procured doses.

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It said remaining doses of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Sinopharm vaccines should be reserved for people getting their second doses.

Out of Namibia's population of 2.5 million people, only around 116,000 have received a first dose of either the Sinopharm or AstraZeneca vaccine, while some 23,000 have received two vaccine doses.

Because it is classified as an upper middle income country, Namibia had to pay to participate in global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX. But despite making payment, it has only received 24,000 doses out of 108,000 allocated by the facility.

It has received donations of 100,000 Sinopharm doses from China and 30,000 AstraZeneca doses from India.

It still expects a further 150,000 Sinopharm doses, 100,000 AstraZeneca shots, 80,000 Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) doses and 80,000 shots of Russia's Sputnik V, health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe told reporters on Friday.

Nangombe was quoted by the state-owned New Era newspaper as saying delays in vaccine deliveries were linked to pharmaceutical companies focusing on orders from bigger clients.

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Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa Editing by Alexander Winning and Mark Potter

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