The Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe said members of the public should not be afraid of taking Covid-19 booster shoots despite few negative incidents resulting from vaccine reactions.

Lelatisitswe said the ministry is aware of some allegations of adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccine booster shots but assured the public that it is important to take vaccine booster shots to enhance immunity against the virus.

“We urge all Batswana to take vaccines because it is important for their health, and should not pay attention to the negative allegations.” Some people have been having second thoughts about taking booster shots because of unfortunate incidents caused by vaccine reactions.

One outstanding case is that of the unfortunate death of a South African artist, Bongani Mbongani who passed on in Botswana after fighting for his life for a few days in hospital after taking the booster shot. Upon his arrival in Botswana, he could not avoid the vaccine as the law stipulated that all persons entering the country should prove that they have been fully vaccinated and if not vaccinated they will have to be vaccinated at ports of entry.

South Africa’s High Commissioner to Botswana Thasinga Shope-Soumah expressed her condolences to the family during the launch of ‘Visit Gauteng campaign’ in Gaborone. She said that although the devastating effects of Covid-19 continue to pose threat to lives, governments are working round the clock to reduce the negative impacts.

“One of our artists came to Botswana and he had to take the vaccine but somehow reacted and fell ill and unfortunately passed on. I am not saying he fell ill because of the vaccine but somehow he reacted to the vaccine immediately after being injected.” Shope-Soumah told The Midweek Sun that she could not talk further about the issue as the family is still waiting for the report on the cause of death.

“Once a report into the cause of the death of the young man has been issued then we shall be guided by the family in terms of what action if any they intend to take. We are all saddened by the unfortunate passing away of one of our young artists.” The family was not in a position to talk to the press.

It is alleged that Mbongani suffered a stroke, swelling of the brain and was in a coma until his death on March 4th. According to the law, if one is not willing to be vaccinated at the port of entry one will not be allowed in the country if one is a non-citizen and if one is a national, one will be liable to a fine of P5 000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.

In response to The Midweek Sun enquiries, the Ministry of Health and Wellness spokesperson, Dr Christopher Nyanga said the ministry is unable to discuss details of the patient’s death lest it offends clauses governing patient privacy and disease confidentiality. He however said the ministry is not aware of any legal actions which the family might take. The Government only assisted the patient to get medical attention.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recently revoked the previous requirements administered at ports of entry to allow partially-vaccinated or unvaccinated people to enter the country if they comply with the required testing requirements. “Due to discordant periods for taking booster shots between Botswana and other countries and for purposes of smoothening international travel, the definition of being fully-vaccinated in Botswana will no longer include a booster shot.

“Having completed the primary vaccine series will be considered sufficient for one to be allowed entry without the need to present a negative PCR test results,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry also stated that it is only when one is not fully vaccinated and is also not willing to undergo Covid-19 testing at the port of entry that one will be charged and fined or taken to a court of law. As of March 28, there have been 263 950 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Botswana with 2 619 deaths. A total of over 2.9 million vaccine doses have been administered, while 1.29 million people are fully vaccinated.