Mashudu Netsianda and Nqobile Tshili
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday announced that Covid-19 booster shots can be given to those fully vaccinated as there are enough stocks already in the country for everyone with more coming, as a way of enhancing their immunity.
Already, steps have been taken so frontline health workers, those with chronic complaints and the elderly can access the boosters immediately.
A booster shot occurs when a vaccinated individual is further jabbed to increase their immunity.
This follows a new spike in Covid-19 infections in the country, which come at a time when the Omicron variant first detected in Botswana and South Africa has been confirmed in Zimbabwe.
Booster jabs are now allowed in many countries, especially among the most vulnerable groups who tend to be those vaccinated first and who would now be safer with a booster.
In view of a likely fourth wave, which the new variant, Omicron, will most certainly aggravate, President Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced new Covid-19 lockdown measures to mitigate against the threat posed by new variant.
Cabinet declared the Omicron a variant of concern in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
In an address at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday after conducting the National Clean-up in Mzilikazi suburb of Bulawayo to mark the third anniversary of the programme which he launched on December 5 in 2018, the President said due to the emergence of the new variant, Government had tightened lockdown measures to deal with strain of the fourth wave.
“We do not want to constrain our people. But as President I must choose between allowing you to do what you want at the time you want, and you die, or to refuse to let you to do things as you want, but as I direct you, so that you survive,” he said.
“I choose that you must behave in a manner that creates survival rather than the manner or behaviour that results in death.”
The President urged all eligible citizens to get vaccinated to help fight the spread of the virus.
“I am asking you all to be vaccinated and this morning I made a decision that those who have been fully vaccinated can go for a booster shot, which is the third one if they want. We have enough doses for everyone in this country,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said the country had enough stocks of vaccines with more expected to arrive within the next few days.
“We are receiving many more doses of vaccines in about five to six days from now, which are more than the country’s population. Even if people get double vaccination, we still have a surplus. Those who think they want a booster you can go and get the third jab,” he said.
“Those who haven’t been vaccinated, I urge you to get vaccinated. No one is safe until you also get vaccinated then we all feel safe.”
The President urged citizens to continue observing WHO protocols that is wearing of masks, sanitisation, washing hands with soap under running water and social distancing.
In a statement yesterday, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Robert Mudyiradima said frontline workers, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses can receive the booster shot immediately.
“Booster doses for frontline workers, those with chronic diseases and the elderly to commence with immediate effect,” read part of his statement.
Health experts welcomed the introduction of booster shots saying they will increase citizen’s immunity against Covid-19.
Zimbabwe Medical Association president Dr Francis Chiwora said vaccines fade away over time hence booster shots are necessary.
“If you get vaccinated it stimulates the immunity to a certain level but with passage of time, that immunity tends to wear off. It’s like someone who has taken food or a drink. Let’s say beer for instance, if someone drinks alcohol the levels in the blood goes up to a certain level but with passage of time, it wears off until it is not there. So, with the booster if it reaches a lower level then you get another dose it picks up your immunity to high level again,” said Dr Chiwora.
He said the country is following global trends where some nations have provided booster shots to their entire populations.
“It is an important development because what has come up, is that with vaccines protection tends to wear off. So, a booster vaccine is quite essential more or less for all the population. But I think the people at risk are the ones that need to be prioritised at the beginning. It is an important development, elsewhere the whole populations, in the United Kingdom they are giving them booster shots,” he said.
Dr Chiwora said those who have not been vaccinated should aim to do so for the country to achieve herd immunity.
However, there are concerns that some citizens do not want to be vaccinated and so far, 3,8 million people have received their first jab while 2,8 million have been fully vaccinated.
Bulawayo City Council health service director Dr Edwin Sibanda said booster shots were common and while some people had been reluctant to get vaccinated, it was necessary for the Government to protect those who wanted to be protected.