Davison Kaiyo and Nyasha Kunyiswa
Zimbabwe rolled the COVID-19 vaccination programme with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga getting the first jab at Wilkins Infectious Hospital in the capital Harare.
The jab was administered by Siboniso Mlilo, a State-registered nurse at the hospital who was part of the team of health workers trained on vaccine storage, communication, surveillance, vaccination, monitoring and evaluation and waste management.
Speaking after his vaccination, VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, said he had taken the jab to install confidence in the Zimbabwean populace.
“I decided to be the first Zimbabwean to be vaccinated so that we show people that the vaccination is safe and to also instil confidence in the people that it is safe to be vaccinated,” he said.
President Mnangwagwa also took to the social media applauding Vice President Chiwenga for successfully launching the vaccinations programme.
“Thank you to Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga for showing Zimbabwe that this vaccine is safe for all our people. This is a historic moment in our country’s fight against this virus,” the President said in Twitter post Thursday afternoon.
Zimbabwe received a donation of 200 000 shots of the Sinopharm vaccine from China with the inoculants arriving in the country on Monday.
The country aims to acquire 1.8million doses of vaccines of Sinopharm and has started testing the Sinovac as the government rolls out the vaccination program.
According to the government, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will follow the existing distribution structure of routine vaccines and supplies.
Zimbabwe is aiming to acquire enough vaccines to inoculate 60 percent of the population in order to achieve herd immunity.
The roll out of the free and voluntary inoculation program will be done in phases with the priority being accorded to the country’s health workers.
These would be followed by health personnel in the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Defence Forces, and the Prisons and Correctional Services.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Immigration and Agritex workers will also be prioritised under Phase 1.
Persons who are over 60 years and other vulnerable groups are also being targeted under the initial phase.
Phase 2 will encompass college and university lecturers and school teachers, while the rest of the population at low risk will be catered for under Phase 3.
The move by the Vice President is expected to bring confidence in the Sinopharm vaccine which was received in the country against a background of safety pessimism especially on social media with conspiracy theories being peddled as facts.
Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has donated oxygen cylinders and protective clothing to Zimbabwe that would be used in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
Handing over the clinical equipment and PPE, World Health Organisation Country Representative Dr Alex Gasasira applauded government’s role in fighting the virus.
“We would like to congratulate the government of Zimbabwe for the strong leadership they are exhibiting in the fight to curb this pandemic. As the WHO we would like to thank the support of the government to fight against the global pandemic disease. We also appreciate the general support from the AfDB and pledge our commitment to continue working with the government.”
Health and Child Care deputy minister Dr John Mangwiro said: “This disease is just showing us that Africans we support each other and I want to thank the African Development Bank for the continued support.”
The equipment donated include 120 oxygen concentrators, antigen tests, face shields, safety glasses and masks.
Zimbabwe is using Sinopharm vaccine donated from China in its vaccination programme and is being administered on voluntary basis.
The country is also expecting more vaccines from Russia and India.