Government will mobilise the necessary resources to buy Covid-19 vaccines, with Treasury promising the Health Ministry enough funds, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care was told on Monday.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has already used its experience and procedures from previous vaccination drives for other diseases to set up the required programme to roll-out Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as the vaccines arrive.
Acting Permanent Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Robert Mudyiradima was asked what had been budgeted for vaccines and he said: “We will be buying the vaccine from our coffers. We have been assured by the Ministry of Finance that the resources for this will be sought for and be provided.”
The funds were not catered for in the Budget as vaccine procurement came after the 2021 Budget formulation process.
Zimbabwe has been promised international aid along with other developing countries within a programme run by the World Health Organisation, with Britain topping this up with a promised donation of three million vaccine doses.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development can, as it showed when it responded to drought and cyclone and previous Covid-19 spending, re-budget by deferring other expenditure to move funds into critical emergency spending.
The Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the ministry, Dr Portia Manangazira, told the Committee that the national Covid-19 vaccine readiness assessment had been done and the Ministry came up with a deployment strategy that would be used once the programme began.
She said Government had adopted existing vaccination programmes for other diseases in their study.
“I am happy to say as a country we have a very robust immunisation programme and the ministry through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation has conducted a national readiness assessment for the Covid-19 vaccine and we have also come up with a Zimbabwe Covid-19 national deployment and vaccination strategy,” said Dr Manangazira.
Government has already said frontline workers, the vulnerable and security services, would be among the first to be vaccinated.
The process would be voluntary, but in previous vaccination programmes there have been travel restrictions and other problems faced by those who do not accept vaccination.
Dr Manangazira said Government had also been studying the vaccines that were already on the world market and was using WHO approvals to help select the vaccines that would be used in Zimbabwe.
“So, what we have also been doing is adopting a measured approach with close guidance from our principals and just last week, we had two meetings convened by the Honourable Vice President who is also Minister of Health and Child Care (Dr Constantino Chiwenga) with Chinese authorities, but also with the senior officials and persons to do with vaccinology in the country just to look at what is currently available in terms of the registered products, which ones have been approved, which ones have emergency use listing, which ones have WHO pre-qualification and also scrutinising the essential policies underpinning vaccination so there would be a number of products which would be available,” she said.
Government is also carrying out tests on an anti-parasite drug, Ivermectin, that is being used by some individuals to treat Covid-19 to ascertain its efficacy before approval for widespread use.
A variety of drugs have been suggested at times during the pandemic, but very few have been found after proper studies to have any beneficial effect.