BY RICHARD MUPONDE/SIZALOKUHLE NCUBE
CHINESE ambassador to Zimbabwe, Gu Shaochun, has defended the Sinopharm vaccine produced by the Asian giant, saying that it is safe amid indications that the rollout is floundering due to public scepticism.
Zimbabwe launched its inoculation programme on February 22, after receiving 200 000 doses of the Chinese vaccine, but as of yesterday morning, only 37 660 people had been vaccinated against a target of 100 000.
On February 16, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga told Parliament that government planned to vaccinate about 54 000 health workers and an unspecified number of customs, immigration and extension workers in the initial stage of the programme within 10 days.
Speaking after Zimbabwe received a second batch of Chinese vaccines yesterday, a combination of 144 000 doses purchased by the government and another donation of 200 000 doses, Shaochun insisted that the Sinopharm vaccine was safe.
“We have 10 million doses that have been donated to 69 countries. It’s our hope that the vaccines will inject hope in the fight against the pandemic,” he said.
“China is against vaccines nationalism or politicisation of vaccines. We commend President ED (Emmerson Mnangagwa) for embarking on the vaccine programme and we are a step closer to a normal situation and economic boost,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Mnangagwa urged citizens to embrace the vaccines to ensure the country achieved its targeted herd immunity of 60% ahead of the looming third wave of the disease.
“The fact that we are the first country in Africa which has received the second batch of Chinese-donated vaccines attests to the comprehensive relationship we have with the people of China,” he said.