The GOVERNMENT has undertaken to vaccinate all teachers who are prepared to receive Covid-19 immunisation jabs immediately after schools reopen next week as authorities ramp up efforts to create a safe learning environment.
Authorities are doubling efforts to procure more doses in preparation for the second phase of the national vaccination programme, which targets to inoculate lecturers at tertiary institutions, teachers and others at medium risk from the respiratory virus.
Last week, the World Health Organisation-led Covax facility allocated 984 000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Zimbabwe under a revised allocation schedule published by the global vaccine alliance.
The Government has also secured an additional 75 000 doses of India’s Covaxin vaccine, which has been shown to have an 81 percent efficacy rate after Phase Three trials.
The country is preparing to take delivery of a shipment of 600 000 vaccines procured from Chinese pharmaceutical giant, Sinopharm.
Schools will reopen in phases with the three examination classes resuming classes on March 15, while the rest of the classes will open a week later on March 22.
In preparation for the reopening, the Government has heightened surveillance and monitoring of schools’ preparations for the enforcement of WHO and Ministry of Health and Child Care standard health guidelines.
More than 31 000 people had received their first shot of the vaccine by Friday under the first phase of the national vaccination programme.
Preparations for commencement of Phase Two are at an advanced stage.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education communication and advocacy director, Mr Taungana Ndoro said authorities were putting in place measures to guarantee the safety of teachers, learners and staff.
“As you know, teachers are part of the frontline workers and Government has placed them under Phase Two of vaccination which is likely to begin soon,” he said.
“We are not sure of the exact date when teachers will receive their jabs, but as a Ministry we have put in place measures that ensure maximum safety for teachers and learners.”
Teachers unions have requested to meet the Government to discuss a proposed mandatory Covid-19 testing and vaccination of educators.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou said the unions had written to the Government requesting to meet before schools reopen.
“We have already written to Government requesting for a meeting which will discuss a number of issues such as Covid-19 testing in schools, vaccinations and salaries to ensure a smooth opening of schools,” he said.
“The safety of teachers and learners is very important, so we need clarity.
“We are also pushing for social dialogue between Government and teachers so that we discuss the welfare of teachers.”
National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president, Mr Arthur Maphosa, emphasised the need for vaccination of teachers ahead of schools’ reopening.
“That is one of the issues that we will be raising in our districts’ meeting over the next week,” said Mr Maphosa.
“It is important that we know when teachers will also receive the vaccine.”
Last year, nearly 300 students tested positive for Covid-19 between September and December with John Tallach Secondary school in Matabeleland North recording the highest number of cases.
The Government gave a green light to schools’ reopening on Tuesday ordering that school authorities reduce class sizes and enforce hot sitting.
At schools with inadequate infrastructure, pupils will not attend school daily, but will alternate attendance days to allow for proper implementation of social distancing rules.
Authorities have designed an ad-hoc learning programme entailing intensified one-on-one learning, provision of self-study guidelines and rigorous homework in order to accelerate catching up.The Government has started employing more qualified but jobless teachers to allow the splitting of classes.
More vaccines on the way
Last week, the Covax facility announced that Zimbabwe will be among the 142 countries that are set to receive vaccines before the end of next month.
WHO country representative Dr Alex Gasasira confirmed the development.
“We are hopeful that Covid-19 vaccines from Covax will arrive in Zimbabwe soon, but I do not have an exact date,” said Dr Gasasira.
“The Ministry of Child and Health Care is leading all the preparations for these vaccines.”
The Gavi Vaccine Alliance senior media relations manager, Iryna Mazur, told The Sunday Mail that distribution of vaccine doses to most countries had commenced.
Gavi set up the Covax facility in collaboration with WHO.
“Covax anticipates the bulk of the first round of deliveries taking place in March, with some early shipments to those that have already fulfilled the criteria outlined in our joint statement, occurring late this month,” she said.
“More information related to these first deliveries will be communicated to all participants and published online in the coming days.”
Ministry of Health and Child Care spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri said vaccination was going on well and no adverse effects of the jabs had been reported as yet.