VaccinatiON against Covid-19 starts tomorrow with 49 000 health workers and thousands of other high-risk frontline staff being scheduled for stage one of phase one using the first batch of the Sinopharm vaccines that arrived from China on Monday.
But the second wave has brought in the South African variant with 61 percent of cases now being this variant, which spreads faster and has a higher death rate than the original variant which has largely receded. Lockdown regulations are to be tightly enforced to minimise the higher risk.
As the highest risk groups are vaccinated, the programme moves to stage two of phase one, those with serious medical conditions and the over 60s, with Monday’s batch of Sinopharm doses being augmented by a far larger shipment from China next month.
The immunisation programme is targeting 10 million people in three phases to complete the exercise and the money will be sourced through Government funds, public-private partnerships and donations. All vaccinations will be free.
After the two groups with the highest risk of infection, the stage ones, or the highest risk of death if infected, the stage twos, the programme moves forward to phase two, the education sector workers and others with medium risk before moving into phase three for the lowest risk groups.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet media briefing in Harare yesterday Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed the commencement of the vaccination exercise which was preceded by completion of the initial training for those giving the jabs.
“The vaccination programme commences on February 18, 2020, on a voluntary basis and will be free. The aim of the first phase is to vaccinate 22 percent, 18,4 percent under Phase 2; 18,4 percent under Phase 3, thereby yielding a vaccinated population of nearly 60 percent of the population,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa reiterated that priority for the roll-out would be accorded to healthcare workers, health personnel for the security services, those at the ports of entry and Agritex workers under Phase 1.
The elderly and vulnerable groups would also be targeted under the initial phase, while the second phase encompasses college and university lecturers and school teachers. The rest of the population at low risk will be catered for under the final phase.
The training of the trainers has already commenced focusing on vaccine storage, communication, surveillance, vaccination monitoring and evaluation and waste management.
“Vaccination will take place at fixed outreach points and will cover 10 days in the first round and five days in the second round.”
Those inoculated are assured of the second dose and will be advised on the dates for the second jab, while systems have been put in place for close monitoring and surveillance for any adverse side effects.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the procurement of vaccines was an ongoing process in line with the set target and research was also continuing to ensure only suitable vaccines would be administered in Zimbabwe.
The country’s approach was based on science and the procured immunisation would be registered by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe as required under the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act.
“A committee is implementing vaccine vigilance plans to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine consignments are physically verified for the implementation of safety measures.”
The minister said to equip the financing of vaccine purchase, public-private partnerships were being co-ordinated by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
“The total estimated operational budget for Covid-19 vaccination over all the phases was US$6,7 million. Many well-wishers, including the Governments of China, India and the Russian Federation are supporting Zimbabwe’s vaccine programme.”
Minister Mutsvangwa also gave an update on the results of genomic sequencing done by the Government
to ascertain the kind of variants in communities.
She said results were out and showed there was a new variant spreading faster than the one first recorded last year.
Security services personnel had been directed to enforce prescribed protocols and up their shift in terms of monitoring compliance.
“Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that results of the genomic sequencing recently conducted indicate that the type of Covid-19 virus that the nation had in 2020 has receded.
“There is now a 61 percent dominance of the new South African variant of the Covid-19 virus which spreads faster and has a higher fatality rate,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Accordingly, the nation now needs to be more vigilant than before and adhere to Covid-19 prevention and control measures. Security personnel have therefore, been directed to intensify monitoring and enforcement in order to enhance compliance,” she said.
In Kariba district, preparations for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine are underway with health officials undergoing training.
Kariba district medical officer Dr Godwin Muza said preparations were underway for the inoculation in line with the rollout plan released by Government.
Mashonaland West provincial medical director, Dr Gift Masoja confirmed the province’s readiness saying some health personnel were currently going through virtual training workshops to prepare them for the rolling out of the vaccines to frontliners.
Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, who is also the provincial Covid-19 task force team chairperson, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the District Development Fund and district councils were working on repairing roads damaged by incessant rains to improve the transportation of the vaccines.
“The province is ready to receive the first batch of the vaccines that are expected to benefit thousands of frontline workers including health personnel and security. DDF and councils are also working on attending to the roads that were affected by rains,” she said.
As of yesterday, the province had a total cumulative figure of 1 965 infections, 1 478 recoveries, 361 active cases and 126 deaths.
Mashonaland Central provincial medical director Dr Clemence Tshuma said they had started training of medical staff on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
In Masvingo preparations for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine have reached top gear with awareness campaigns across the province to dispel myths around the vaccine.
So far, the Covid-19 risk communication sub-committee under the provincial taskforce has already been to Zaka, Bikita and Masvingo urban to carry out awareness campaigns on the vaccination.
The taskforce is working with local radio stations, namely Hevoi FM and Great Zimbabwe University Campus Radio in the awareness campaigns which have attracted public attention.
Masvingo Covid-19 provincial taskforce spokesperson Mr Rodgers Irimai said the awareness campaigns were now a daily exercise for communities across the province.
“We are preparing for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Masvingo and we have been carrying out highly subscribed awareness campaigns across the province largely to dispel raging myths about the vaccine and our people are getting to understand better.”
Mashonaland East has also put in place measures to ensure the flawless start of the vaccination programme.
Provincial epidemiology officer Dr Paul Matsvimbo said the first phase of the vaccine rollout would start with 7 000 frontline workers to be immunised at 213 centres.
“All is set for the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the province and we have put in place all the logistics. We have put in place measures to ensure there is a flawless start to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr Matsvimbo said they also put in place measures to ensure there was proper waste management with Mutoko and Marondera Hospitals being designated as disposal centres.