Following the gift of 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from the China this week, Zimbabwe now has secured enough vaccines for both initial shots and the booster shot for the 9,4 million people aged 16 and above.
The latest donation, in addition to the two million doses given earlier since February last year, brings China’s gifts to Zimbabwe to 12 million vaccine doses, which added to the 20 million already bought from China and through the Africa Union and Covax facilities means Zimbabwe’s supply chain is secured.
So far a little over 7,4 million of those 30 million assured doses have been used. While Zimbabwe in August showed the vaccination teams could between them use more than 100 000 doses in a single day, at the moment that is roughly the sort of figure we are seeing in a week with Zimbabweans coming forward in far fewer numbers even though everything is in place.
President Mnangagwa this week acknowledged the timely support that the Chinese had rendered to the country at a critical phase in the fight against the highly infectious Omicron variant which he said was threatening to erode the impressive gains in the fight against Covid-19 and strides towards achieving national herd immunity.
“As a result, we have registered commendable and globally acclaimed progress towards achieving herd immunity. It is therefore incumbent upon us all as responsible citizens to fully embrace the Government’s vaccination programme in order to have all people immunised and protected against the scourge,” he said.
President Mnangagwa’s administration initially set aside US$100 million to buy vaccines and an additional US$40 million was added.
In November last year, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Treasury had reached the target of 20 million vaccine doses.
While China remained the largest supplier, about 7 million of the vaccine doses were bought through the African Union Facility.
More were coming through the COVAX Facility, a global partnership comprising the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and WHO, established to facilitate equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries.
Zimbabwe’s vaccine roll-out began in earnest on February 22 targeting health workers and other frontline staff with teachers, security services, judiciary, the clergy and people with chronic illnesses coming in the second phase.
As at January 12, a total of 4 183 395 first doses had been administered while 3 207 309 people had received the second jab. Those who have received their booster shot totalled 18 763.
So far a little over 44 percent of Zimbabweans aged 16 and over have received at least one dose, almost 28 percent of the total population, and that is considered low in light of the assured supply chain and the deployment of enough vaccination teams.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said the introduction of booster shots was a positive step, but emphasised the need for vaccine literacy programmes to increase awareness in the communities.
“Now that the country is administering the booster shot, there is need to address the issue of vaccine literacy programs as we now need new and encouraging messaging into communities to create demand,” he said.
Government is already carrying out awareness campaigns across the country to increase vaccine awareness in communities.
Experts believe that these sustained Covid-19 health education and information awareness activities will promote community participation and reduce the spread of misinformation as a cure to vaccine hesitancy.