Covid-19: Millionth milestone reached

Gareth Willard

Special Correspondent

Sometime late on Saturday afternoon an unknown Zimbabwean was given the millionth jab in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme, marking another milestone in the long but steady progress to achieve herd immunity.

On Saturday, according the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 10 156 received their first jab and another 15 513 their second, taking the totals to 666 786 first doses and 335 679 for the second, a grand total of 1 002 465 jabs and suggesting the millionth jab was fairly late in the day, an hour or so before the nursing teams called it a day and packed up.

With the need to commit another 331 107 doses for second doses for those who have received their first jab but not the second, this means Zimbabwe has used or committed 1 333 572 doses from the initial deliveries of 1 635 000 doses for the general population plus another 100 000 doses given recently by the Chinese military for the Zimbabwean Defence Forces.

The totals mean that there are 401 428 doses still in stock for newcomers, enough for both doses for more than 200 000 unvaccinated people, plus another 331 107 reserved for second doses, a total of 732 535 doses in the cold rooms and fridges of the medical teams. 

Those figures refute reports circulating that “Zimbabwe is running out”. 

In addition Cabinet reported last week that another order of 500 000 doses from China would shortly arrive, meaning that the programme can continue without interruption. 

It appears that China, despite the need to keep its own national vaccination programme in full swing, is willing to release supplies of vaccine for the Zimbabwean orders as and when they are required, probably because Zimbabwe has shown a serious commitment to its own programme and has used properly the Chinese gifts, now totalling 500 000 doses, and the first commercial order of 1,2 million doses. 

But there are logistical constraints. The nursing teams can only manage to take details and vaccinate a certain number of people a day, but the more than 25 000 jabs given on Saturday suggest that this number is quite    large. 

Even the inert vaccines used by Zimbabwe have to be stored at around 0 degrees and then transferred to special insulated cooler boxes for the teams to take to the vaccination points. 

Zimbabwe already had the required cold chain logistics in place, the one used for the ordinary mass vaccination of all children against a swathe of killer childhood diseases, and so each vaccination team can get the required number of doses for a day’s work without huge sums spent on new equipment.

With the programme now proceeding at its present pace for about two months after a relatively slow start there is a hump in second doses seen in the figures for the past week    or so. 

This arises from the fact that in April there were only a modest number of people ready for the second dose, so most of the jabs given each day were first doses. 

That huge hump of first dose Zimbabweans are now coming in for the second dose.

As the programme continues we should soon start seeing roughly equal numbers of first and second jabs being given each day.

While the millionth jab is an important milestone, Zimbabwe still needs to administer another 19 million doses to achieve the target of 10 million vaccinated people required for herd immunity.

On Saturday we were 3,35 percent of that target of fully vaccinated people, or just under 2,34 percent of our total population. 

With our present total of just over 1 million jabs we have now administered around 6,66 doses per 100 people. 

In mainland Africa, excluding the small island states where small areas and small populations make vaccination programmes so much easier, we are second behind Morocco and roughly equal to Tunisia. 

In mainland Southern Africa we are easily the leader, running at just over twice the rate of second-placed Botswana and more than five-times the South African rate.

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