Mukudzei Chingwere and Rumbidzai Zinyuke
Vaccination centres in all districts have now received their allocations of the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 and are ready for the nationwide vaccination programme that continues from today.
A ceremony to mark the start of the vaccination programme, and to assure citizens of the safety of the vaccine, was held in Harare last Thursday and 39 people including eight journalists, were inoculated.
Health and Child Care Minister Vice President Constantino Chiwenga led from the front and took the first jab followed by Health Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro.
Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces received their share of doses on Friday, with provincial medical directors confirming receipt of their shipments, and the deliveries had been subdivided and sent to all districts by yesterday.
Mashonaland West province received 11 192 doses while Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South, and Midlands received over 44 000 doses, Manicaland received over 20 000 doses and Masvingo 22 000 doses.
Health and Child Care Ministry spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri yesterday said it was all systems go for the massive vaccination programme ever.
“All the country’s districts have now received their vaccines,” he said. “The provinces and the districts are ready for the vaccination programme which starts with health workers. Their staff have been trained and we encourage everybody who can, to take the vaccines.”
The vaccination programme, which is expected to last 10 days under the first phase, is voluntary.
Zimbabwe plans to source vaccines for 10 million people from China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom, among others, to ensure many people are vaccinated.
India has pledged 75 000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
The Sinopharm vaccine being used for the programme that continues from today, was donated by China and will cover 100 000 people as two doses are needed for each person.
In Manicaland, Buhera District Medical Officer Dr Shelton Kwiri said it was all systems go and committed to lead his staff in the vaccination programme.
“We have received our vaccines and our teams who will be administering them were trained. Most of our staff have committed to be vaccinated and we are eager to get going.
“The Vice President has given us confidence that this vaccine was safe and I am also leading my team here in being vaccinated,” said Dr Kwiri.
Manicaland Provincial Medical Director Dr Simon Nyadundu said training was complete and each district had put in place a rollout plan.
“The training has already been done for the health care workers in the district so once they receive the vaccine, they will do the practical demonstrations, after which they will roll out their plans.
“The districts have set out to target all the frontline workers and we expect that on Monday we will start vaccinating the targeted population,” he said.
All health care workers and other frontline staff in the security sector and immigration department Will be the first to receive the vaccine.
Existing district health institutions will be used as vaccination centres. Dr Nyadundu said the institutions have capacity to handle the vaccines in refrigerated stores. Several other vaccines need refrigeration so the cold chains were already in place.
“We have refrigerated stores where we have kept our vaccines so as they are going to be delivered to the districts, we will still be using the cold chain system which we have been using for other vaccines. The district hospitals already have storage capacity to keep their vaccines,” he said.
He urged communities to embrace the vaccine as it would reduce the Covid-19 burden on the province.
“But once you are vaccinated, it does not mean the end to all other protective measures we have been advocating for. So we urge the public to continue sanitising, keep social distance and all other preventive measures,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s target is to achieve a 60 percent herd immunity, which can only be achieved when 10 million people have been vaccinated.
The vaccination programme starts with those at high risk of infection and these are largely health workers and some security officers. The next stage will include those at high risk of dying if infected and these are mainly the elderly and those with co-morbidities.
The education sector will also be prioritised next in the second phase before the programme is rolled out to the rest of the population that is at low risk in the final phase.
Zimbabwe has received praise from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the way it has responded to the pandemic.
Over 35 000 cases tested positive but more than 32 000 people have recovered while 1 432 had died as at February 20. Active cases are now just over 2 000.
But experts and Government officials warn that if citizens lose guard, more cases could still be recorded.
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