SENIOR STAFF WRITER
ZIMBABWE yesterday received a further 400 000 doses of coronavirus vaccines from China, as the country ramps up its programme to get the lethal respiratory disease under control.
This comes three weeks after the government rolled out the first phase of its Covid-19 vaccination plan, aimed at inoculating 10 million citizens to curb the local spread of the virus.
It also comes as Zimbabwe’s new coronavirus infections and deaths have gone down significantly over the past month, although health experts have warned of the threat of a third wave due to public complacency in adhering to coronavirus protocols.
Speaking at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, where he took delivery of the latest batch of vaccines, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country was recording steady progress in curbing the spread of the pandemic.
“My administration is confident that this vaccination intervention will greatly contribute to our country’s realisation of herd immunity.
“The national Covid-19 vaccination programme will further guarantee a Zimbabwe that continues on its course to achieve Vision 2030.
“We are making steady progress in the fight against the pandemic and in the on-going national Covid-19 vaccination roll-out programme,” Mnangagwa said.
“We remain thankful to China for the support of this programme. This includes the timely provision of epidemiological expertise and personal protective equipment (PPE), among other aspects.
“As you are aware, today we are gathered to receive the second batch of 200 000 vaccine doses donated to Zimbabwe by the People’s Republic of China, and a consignment of 200 000 vaccine doses procured by Zimbabwe from SinoVac, as well as 1 200 000 medical consumables procured from SinoPharm.
“The fact that we are the only country in Africa which has to date received the second batch of the vaccine doses from China attests to the strong, comprehensive and strategic nature of our partnership,” Mnangagwa said further.
Speaking at the same occasion, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga — who is also the country’s Health minister — said the second batch of vaccines would see the country expanding its vaccination programme to cover the education and justice sectors, among others.
“Teachers … are going to be vaccinated so that there are no problems in our education system.
“We are also looking at the judiciary, law and order … those who are working together with the frontline workers in the ministry of Health at our ports of entry and so forth.
“We will not forget that Zimbabwe is a God-fearing nation and, therefore, we are also putting heads of all the denominations, together with the majority of people who have ailments, on this second phase,” Chiwenga said.
China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, said his country would continue to support Zimbabwe to fight Covid-19.
“This is the most powerful interpretation of the great friendship and militant solidarity between our two countries and our two peoples.
“We are comrades, brothers, friends, and partners. We both believe in national independence and liberty. We both believe in sovereignty, equality, and fairness. We both believe in solidarity and mutual support.
“We see the world as one community where our lives are linked with that of others,” Guo said.
“In the face of such an unprecedented common challenge, acting with determination and speed is more important than anything else.
“This is the most undeniable human rights practice, which demonstrates our sense of responsibility,” he added.
Out of the 200 000 jabs which were first donated by China, about 38 000 frontline workers have been vaccinated in three weeks since the programme was launched.
The government is also expected to receive more jabs from Russia, the United Kingdom, India and the African Union (AU) under the World Health Organisation-led Covax programme.
Speaking earlier this week, Mnangagwa encouraged Zimbabweans to get vaccinated against the lethal disease.
“Many of you have been asking; Is there a way out? Is there protection against Covid-19? Well, I’m here to tell you that you and I have a role to play in this fight.
“Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered to Zimbabwe. These vaccines help minimise the risk of infection and are being administered all over Zimbabwe free of charge.
“You and I need to defeat the disease. So, get vaccinated now. This is our stand against Covid-19. Together, we will conquer. Get vaccinated now,” Mnangagwa said in a video that was produced by the Information ministry.
This came after former Health minister, Henry Madzorera had urged authorities to ramp up awareness campaigns for coronavirus vaccines, to counter misleading social media conspiracy theories.
“It is imperative that the government prioritises raising Covid-19 vaccine awareness to address the worries and concerns that our people have.
“There is a need to reassure the nation that the vaccines are being checked for quality before being rolled out. The safety and effectiveness of these vaccines must be made clear to our population.
“We know that the evidence coming out of other countries that have vaccinated millions of people is that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Madzorera said recently.
“It may be too early to conclude, but uptake of the SinoPharm Covid-19 vaccine is not encouraging at all, even among the frontline health workers.
“Less than two fifths of the expected numbers in phase one stage have been vaccinated so far in some provinces.
“We have also seen some religious leaders being hesitant to embrace the vaccine. This is a cause for concern because these are important influencers in society.
“We need to look at what is causing the vaccine hesitancy among our population. Since I was vaccinated, I have not experienced any discomfort or adverse effect so far,” Madzorera also said.
“There is a great need to communicate with the hesitant populations as a priority. We must understand both individual and community hesitation to be vaccinated.
“The reasons for hesitation must be addressed to achieve herd immunity. Vaccine hesitancy is not only confined to one individual or one community.
“It is both a countrywide as well as a worldwide problem, which has been worsened by social media,” Madzorera said further.
“Social media is full of anti-vaccination messages and conspiracy theories. If we do not have effective leadership that is trusted by its people then the people will turn to unreliable sources on social media.
“We do not doubt the effectiveness of the SinoPharm vaccine being rolled out but we are concerned by the lack of communication so that the average person is confident enough to take it,” he added