BY MOSES MATENGA/JAIROS SAUNYAMA/BEAUTY NYUKE
GOVERNMENT has barred unvaccinated officials from attending next week’s key national events, including Heroes and Defence Forces Day celebrations, to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus.
Cabinet has since barred unvaccinated workers from boarding Public Service Commission (PSC) buses. It has also threatened to scrap allowances for unvaccinated employees.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, during a post-Cabinet Press briefing yesterday, said only 200 vaccinated people would be allowed to attend the Heroes and Defence Forces Day celebrations.
This came at a time when the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has declared all measures put in place to force people to be vaccinated “illegal”.
“The Defence Forces Day will be held on August 10 with the rest of the nation following on virtual platforms,” Mutsvangwa said.
“The Defence Forces and Heroes Day celebrations will only be attended by fully vaccinated persons. In addition, attendees will be subjected to testing for COVID-19 at the event. There will be small gatherings this year to mark the Heroes Day commemorations. The 2021 main Heroes Day commemorations, which will be held on August 9 at the National Heroes Acre, will be a hybrid event with a small gathering of 200 people.”
Mutsvangwa said to ensure the government achieves 60% herd immunity by year end, a number of strategies had been put in place, with the Health Services Board (HSB) recruiting retired nurses to help boost the vaccination programme.
Government is targeting to inoculate about 10 million people, representing 60% of the population, in order to attain herd immunity.
However, only about 700 000 people have received both doses while about 1,6 million have received only one jab since the country rolled out its vaccination programme in February.
“To accelerate the vaccination programme, the payment model of allowances for vaccinators is being reviewed so it can be based on the number of persons vaccinated,” Mutsvangwa said.
“The HSB has written to Treasury seeking concurrence to recruit retired nurses to help boost the vaccination programme.
But the ZHRC earlier said: “The commission acknowledges the initiative of testing and vaccinating frontline workers. However, a number of media platforms have raised concern over employers disregarding freedom of choice, integrity of the person, right to dignity and existence of underlying conditions.
“Some public institutions and private companies are allegedly prohibiting unvaccinated employees from accessing their premises or workstations and others are purportedly having their salaries deducted.”
The ZHRC added: “The government has taken a commendable policy position to allow free choice by individuals with regards to uptake of COVID-19 vaccines. It is, therefore, important for all stakeholders to avoid any coercive measures that directly or indirectly compel people to get vaccinated against their choice.
“It is important to be guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) guiding principles which posit that vaccination programmes must not be made compulsory, but should be a matter of choice.”
Several companies, including those owned by the government have placed unvaccinated workers on forced leave.
Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro on Tuesday told stakeholders during a vaccination event sponsored by Seed Co in Harare that everyone in the country should be vaccinated as it was the only way to deal with the deadly respiratory virus.
“People must stop spreading myths about the virus and the side-effects of vaccines. Some of the myths include that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility,” he said.
Mangwiro said government was in the process of ensuring that everyone in the country gets vaccinated, including children.