Medical staff from the police and defence forces are being deployed to augment vaccination teams from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and local authorities and, using the large shipments of vaccines that have now arrived and are expected very soon, accelerate the vaccination programme.
After a few weeks of slow down in Covid-19 vaccinations, numbers started picking up last week and this week are accelerating swiftly with further improvements expected as the extra staff join the teams at the vaccination centres.
Expectations are that the total of first doses will hit 1 million sometime this week.
Just over a fortnight ago 500 000 Sinopharm vaccines arrived with the first dose portion having been distributed and now 600 000 doses of the 2 million Sinovac doses received last week from China has already been assigned to the provinces and the rest being distributed this week to ensure a continuous supply.
More shipments are expected very soon to fuel the accelerated programme.
On Monday the upgrade in the vaccination rate saw 30 332 people receiving their first jab while another 10 139 received their second one.
Second doses are administered four weeks after the first so that number depends on what happened a month ago.
These vaccinations saw the cumulative figures for the first dose rise to 926 312 and for second doses to 605 556.
The increased demand for the Covid-19 vaccines seen over the past few weeks has resulted in long queues at most vaccination centres with people sometimes spending hours waiting although some centres now book people on an initial visit so that they are vaccinated quickly when told to turn up.
Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the Government would deploy extra staff at vaccination centres to ensure that people did not spend too long in the queues.
“Cabinet is pleased to note that citizens across the country continue to present themselves for vaccination in large numbers. In order to minimise the time spent in queues, extra personnel from security and defence forces have been harnessed to increase the numbers of personnel at the vaccination centres,” she said.
“Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, working with relevant Government departments, is taking measures to ensure that vaccination, rapid response and case management teams are supported with vehicles, fuel and subsistence allowances to ensure that the country achieves herd immunity.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said every province had so far received 50 000 first doses from the latest shipment with the exception of Harare and Bulawayo which had received 100 000 doses each.
Vaccination is now open to all Zimbabweans although frontline workers are still being prioritised at centres.
Government last week launched a vaccination blitz aimed at ensuring that people in all border towns, hotspot areas, tobacco, cotton and GMB depots as well as market places receive the vaccines quickly.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the initiative was now in full swing in all hotspot areas and border towns while teams are moving into rural areas identified as hotspots.
“The nation is advised that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has printed adequate stocks of vaccination cards with security features and is expediting the distribution process to all provinces,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
The country is expecting an additional 1,5 million vaccine doses this week to complement the 2,5 million received in the past two weeks and 1,2 million purchased in April.
Besides these commercial orders expected to total 5,2 million doses within days, another 560 000 more doses were donated by China, India and Russian diamond producer Alrosa.
Zimbabwe is expecting to receive more vaccines under the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax).
“Cabinet reports that Sinopharm and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines are now available on the Covax Platform and the Government will take advantage of the African Union Facility to boost local supplies of the vaccines,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
The overwhelming bulk of the Zimbabwean programme in commercial orders and gifts, all but 60 000 doses, uses the two Chinese inert vaccines which are not only regarded as exceptionally safe and fully effective, but can be stored and distributed using the cold chains already in place for the child vaccination programmes against other diseases, allowing rapid use of the shipments as they arrive.