BY RICHARD MUPONDE
RESIDENTS throughout the country’s major cities and towns have expressed concern over crowding at vaccination centres, saying this could aid the spread of COVID-19 due to long and chaotic queues.
Several people in the country are thronging vaccination centres due to the surge in the number of deaths triggered by the third wave and the more deadly Delta variant of the pandemic.
Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association secretary-general Gift Kurupati said the long-winding queues at vaccination centres had become COVID-19 super spreaders.
“Our appeal to government is to put systems in place, such as online registration or application for those that wish to be vaccinated so that they do not have to queue and are given a date to come and get the jab at the vaccination centre,” Kurupati said.
He alleged that he personally contracted COVID-19 while in a vaccination queue.
Harare Residents Trust executive director Precious Shumba said: “When residents go to the clinics to queue for vaccines, they also face the risk of contracting the virus if there is no physical distancing, no sanitisation, and if people do not wear masks. It is most unfortunate that a lot of people are relaxed around each other thereby making it difficult to control the spread of COVID-19.”
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the current shortage of vaccines at most vaccination centres resulted in people stampeding to get jabs as the COVID-19 infections, hospitalisation and deaths soared.
“Sadly, some people may even get infected with the coronavirus while waiting in the poorly organised vaccination queues as there is very poor observation of the WHO recommended guidelines, especially physical distancing and wearing of facemasks as people stampede to get vaccinated,” Rusike said.
On July 24, the country recorded 89 COVID-19 deaths and 1 591 new infections.
Cumulatively, 1 438 890 people have received the first dose while 677 774 have received the second dose, showing a discrepancy between people that got the first jab compared to those who have completed the exercise.
Yesterday, government received four million more doses from China, which included two million Sinopharm and two million Sinovac jabs.
A survey by NewsDay showed that most vaccination centres had very long winding queues of people who spend several hours without observing social distancing as prescribed in World Health Organisation (WHO) prevention guidelines.
Queues were only being controlled inside the vaccination centres where measures are strictly observed. The situation has also been exacerbated by shortages of vaccines and cards, which have resulted in several people being turned, back without getting the doses.
Some vaccination centres were taking a limited number of about 30 people per day, which sometimes results in stampedes.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said he could not comment on the matter as he was locked in a COVID-19 national taskforce meeting, while COVID-19 national co-ordinator Agnes Mahomva’s numbers were not reachable.
But Mahomva recently said 90% of deaths in the country constituted unvaccinated people.
The country aims to inoculate 60% of its adult population to achieve herd immunity.
Zimbabwe has ordered all government workers to be vaccinated, or they lose some of their benefits.
During a post-Cabinet media briefing last Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government was concerned about the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.