BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/MOSES MATENGA
MEMBERS of Parliament have slammed the government for its unsystematic and haphazard purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines after reports that many people are struggling to get second doses.
Zimbabwe is currently using Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac, Indian Covaxin and Russian Sputnik V vaccines which require two doses to effectively fight the respiratory virus.
By Wednesday, 1 740 598 people had been vaccinated with the first dose, while only 863 667 had received their second jab. A total of 35 people died on Wednesday from COVID-19 complications, while the country recorded 1 091 new cases.
MPs blamed the low numbers of people who have received got the second jab on poor distribution mechanisms, saying this was giving members of the public headaches.
There are fears that there could be side effects if the second dose is delayed.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, Ruth Labode on Wednesday blamed poor planning on the party of government in the procurement of vaccines, resulting in several people failing to get their second jabs on time.
“That question is relevant and not in relation to the delay, but in the haphazard way we are getting our vaccines,” Labode said.
“For example, the Sputnik vaccine, according to the Minister of Health (Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga), we got 50 000 doses. How are they spreading them and if you are sending 5 000 to Nkayi and 5 000 to Hwedza and 5 000 people get the vaccine, that vaccine is then finished.
“So the Covaxin is the same story, the Sinovac and the Sinopharm and other vaccines are okay, but we are getting some of these vaccines through donations which come in small quantities.”
“Those are going to be a problem. Let us stop this haphazard way of buying vaccines,” she said.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa said people intending to get vaccinated were being turned away, adding that there was confusion as to whether delays were not rendering the first jab useless.
“If you miss the second jab at the time you need to take it, then it means it is not effective anymore,” Mliswa said.
“It is science and that is why scientists need to tell us why they came up with those days. When people go for their first jab, the expectation is that after 14 days they will have their second jab or they will be told on the period, which can be four or two weeks, but after that period, they can actually go for their second jab. That is what we understand.”
Acting Health and Child Care minister Amon Murwira quashed MPs’ fears saying people should not worry over missing a second dose of the vaccines on the scheduled vaccination dates.
“Coming to this question, we are saying when people have received the first jab, they will receive their second jab after 14 days. It is not clockwork. People should not be worried about it. It will still be valid that they will receive their second jab even after 20 days. That is what we are saying.
“. . . within the 14 days, the first jab will trigger an immune response. After that, some studies are even showing that the more the delay, the better — scientific studies. If you go after 30 days, it will not kill anyone. It actually could trigger a stronger immune response. So, this is the issue that we are having. It is very scientific what I am saying,” Murwira said.
Government targets to get 60% of the population (approximately 10 million people) vaccinated to attain herd immunity by year end.
To date, the country has received a total of 6 785 million vaccine doses. Government says more funds are needed to purchase the jabs.
Last Thursday, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said out of the US$100 million budget for the purchase of vaccines, US$93 million had already been spent, which means there remains only a US$7 million balance for COVID-19 expenditure.