UNRULY health professionals are making a killing from selling Covid-19 vaccination cards to employees, university and college students desperate to get admitted back to various learning institutions.
A number of tertiary institutions across the country now require students to be either fully vaccinated or be in possession of a valid Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result taken 48 hours prior, to be allowed entrance to university or college campuses.
With some universities and colleges now open following the government’s announcement on the phased re-opening of learning institutions, students are racing against time to be in possession of Covid-19 vaccination cards.
“The announcement by the government caught us by surprise. We thought the lockdown extension meant that colleges were not going to open so we shelved getting the jabs,” a Chinhoyi University of Technology student said.
“However, last Thursday our college advised us that face-to-face lectures were due to start on Monday (August 30) meaning we had to be on campus on the 29th, giving us only two days to prepare. We knew that colleges were advising students to get vaccinated or risk not writing exams. So we did what we could to get the cards because I cannot fail to write examinations because of a vaccination card,” he said.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent this week revealed that the vaccination cards which will be having all the required details including type of vaccine administered, its batch number, and dates where the vaccinated person allegedly took the jab are being sold for between US$15 and US$20 each.
Students argue that while those selling them are making a killing, the price is financially viable considering the charges for a PCR test.
Laboratories are charging US$30 for a PCR test while others like Cimas require US$60 for the same test.
Interviewed students also argued that despite the “reasonable” price being charged for the vaccination cards, it also saves them time as they are in a rush to be at college in time for face-to-face lectures and subsequent examinations.
The vaccination card selling syndicate appears tightly knit involving a web of officials from bureaucrats in the Health ministry to those in charge of operations at vaccination centres.
“So rampant is the practice that even those not really connected within the system are also partaking in it. However, many of these ‘unfortunate’ ones are sloppy and end up getting arrested,” a source in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said.
“These are the individuals you write about in your papers when they are picked up by police, giving a façade that people are serious about dealing with the problem when in actual fact they are the ones who are fuelling it for their selfish benefit.”
Contacted for comment on mechanisms being put in place to ensure the curbing of the vice, chief coordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet Agnes Mahomva said she was not in a position to comment on the issue.
“You need to talk to the Ministry of Health and Child Care because what you are inquiring about is an administrative issue. As a task force we have various sub committees we work with that are responsible for dealing with Covid-19 related issues and these are headed by different ministries. The one you made reference to is best dealt with by a sub committee headed by the Health ministry,” Mahomva said.
Deputy Health and Child Care minister John Mangwiro said: “I will get back to you because I am currently in a meeting. I only took the call because I assumed there was an emergency at the hospital.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that 250 Covid-19 vaccination cards went missing at Cheshuro Rural Health Centre in Gutu, Masvingo province.
Police in Marondera also arrested a Marondera Provincial Hospital nurse over allegations of issuing 63 Covid-19 vaccination cards to unvaccinated people.
Analysts said such actions derail progress in combating the spread of the disease as well as wreck government’s plans of achieving herd immunity.
With a population of about 15 million people, Zimbabwe is targeting the vaccination of 60% of the population to reach herd immunity with the vaccination of 10 million people by the end of 2021.
Last week, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the government had acquired 13 million doses out of the required 20 million to achieve head immunity against Covid-19, but only 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated so far.