Mukudzei Chingwere and Joseph Madzimure
The first consignment of Indian Covaxin Covid-19 vaccines is expected in Harare today, with President Mnangagwa scheduled to receive 35 000 doses out of the 75 000 donated by the government of India.
Logistical arrangements are being finalised for the second batch of 40 000.
Like the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China already being administered, Covaxin uses inactivated, that is killed viruses to generate the immune response in the recipient.
These dead vaccines are all regarded as totally safe since no living matter or potentially poisonous matter is injected.
The arrival of the first consigment of the Indian donation adds to vaccine stocks already received as a gift from China and as part of a commercial order placed with Sinovac in China.
The Government is targeting to immunise at least 60 percent of the population (10 million people) to achieve herd immunity and is relying on vaccines from a number of countries and companies.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza, yesterday said: “We are going to take delivery of 35 000 doses of Covid-19 Covaxin donated by the Indian Government, and will be received by the President.
“The delivery is part of the 75 000 doses they donated and the remaining vaccines will be delivered at a date to be announced.
“The Indian Government has provided transport for the vaccines, and we expect the plane carrying the vaccines at 5.10pm.”
The vaccines will be kept in cold rooms at the national vaccine centre according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Last night, the Indian Government said the remaining doses would be availed as promised, saying the offer was part of strong bilateral ties that exist between the two republics.
“The vaccines which were promised by the Indian government are coming tomorrow (today). The first batch will have 35 000 doses, but we are now working on logistics for the remainder,” said Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Vijay Khanduja.
The Indian government had written an urgent note for the processing of the said vaccines, which are now in place.
“The Embassy of India presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe and has the honour to convey that a consignment of Covaxin will be arriving in Harare on 29 March 2021 at 1700hrs by flight no. EK-713,” reads part of the urgent note seen by The Herald last night.
“The embassy further has the honour to request the esteemed Ministry (of Foreign Affairs) to forward to the Ministry of Health and Child Care for making arrangements for clearing the same upon arrival in Harare.
“The Embassy of India avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe of its highest consideration.”
India had administered more than 55 million doses by yesterday, with India and China running the world’s largest national vaccination programmes in the two countries with the largest populations.
India has see a sharp decline in the Covid-19 caseload, the BBC reports that last Thursday they reported 59 118 new cases, the smallest daily rise since October last year.
India launched its vaccination campaign in January, firstly starting with health workers as was the case in Zimbabwe when the country’s drugs regulator authorised the use of Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, the Indian firm as well as Covishield developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University.
India’s Covaxin, the vaccine coming to Zimbabwe today, reportedly has an efficacy rate of 81 percent, its phase 3 trial has reportedly shown.