Feature: Zimbabwe kicks off COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

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By Tafara Mugwara, Zhang Yuliang

HARARE, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — The Zimbabwean government on Thursday started to roll out its COVID-19 inoculation program following the arrival of the first consignment of the Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

Zimbabwe received 200,000 vaccines from China on Monday, joining a handful of other African countries that have received vaccines so far.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles as health minister became the first citizen to receive a Sinopharm jab, kicking off the vaccination drive that aims to inoculate at least 10 million of the country’s 16 million citizens to achieve herd immunity.

His deputy John Mangwiro and other officials from the health ministry also joined a group of frontline health workers at Wilkins Hospital in Harare to receive their shots as part of the government’s efforts to encourage people to take the vaccine.

Speaking after receiving the jab, Chiwenga urged Zimbabweans to have confidence in the vaccines.

“My ministry conducted all scientific processes to ascertain the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine which was confirmed to be 79 percent.

“I have received the COVID-19 vaccine jab together with my deputy minister and my staff, therefore I urge all Zimbabweans to be vaccinated at their nearest health center,” said he said.

He urged Zimbabweans to continue observing COVID-19 preventative measures.

Violet Badze, acting matron at Beatrice Infectious Hospital in Harare, who was the first medical worker to receive the vaccine, expressed confidence in the country’s vaccine drive.

Michael Chideme, one of the first Zimbabweans to receive the jab, said being amongst the first people to be inoculated was a huge relief.

“I am actually feeling relieved because I have taken a decision to protect my health, so I am happy I have done it, and I am happy to come and take the second dose after 28 days,” he said.

The first batch of the 200,000 Sinopharm doses was distributed across medical centers in the country’s 10 provinces, and nationwide distribution will commence next Monday.

Zimbabwe also purchased 600,000 Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine doses from China, which are expected to arrive in the country in March.

The country is also in advanced negotiations to acquire the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.

In addition, more vaccines are being sourced from the World Health Organization-backed Covax scheme, which aims to ensure their equitable distribution of vaccines globally.

The vaccination will be done in three phases, starting with frontline workers at high risk, followed by those with chronic illnesses, the elderly, and the prison population.

The second phase will target lecturers, schools staff population and other staff at medium risk, while the final stage will see the inoculation of the general public.

A resurgence of COVID-19 spiked in January, but the number of daily recorded new cases has significantly dropped in recent weeks.

The country has so far recorded 35,423 positive cases and 1,418 deaths. Enditem

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