The second stage of the national vaccination programme against Covid-19 opened in Harare yesterday with teachers, the elderly and people with underlying conditions now getting their jabs with the roll-out of this stage to all provinces now almost ready.
Under the second stage of the vaccine rollout, besides the elderly and those with chronic conditions, and now the teachers, tobacco merchants and workers in the hospitality industry can be vaccinated.
The first stage included frontline health workers, members of the uniformed forces, journalists and staff at ports of entry.
With 600 000 doses of vaccine now delivered, the Government is speeding the rollout of the vaccination programme. The first 200 000 Sinopharm doses that arrived a month ago were used to start the first phase.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe took delivery of another 200 000 Sinopharm doses as a gift from China, and the first batch of 200 000 doses of the very similar Sinovac vaccine which is being bought by the Government.
Both Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are the ultrasafe vaccines that use innactive, or dead in colloquial speech, virus particles to generate an immune reaction.
This is how polio, rabies and other vaccines were developed.
Live vaccines, which have caused some concern in some countries, use a totally different approach and are a totally different kind of product.
The two Chinese vaccines are very similar. Another advantage of the dead vaccines is that normal refrigeration is all that is needed and Zimbabwe long ago set up the cold chains for other vaccines that work with the two Chinese Covid-19 vaccines.
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said the vaccination programme would pick-up pace as more people from other sectors come forward.
“We are now expanding from frontline workers to include teachers, those in churches, people who crowd in any area will be approached so that they get vaccinated,” said Dr Mangwiro.
“We want to protect everyone including those with ailments like asthma, diabetes and cancer. Our staff has become used to the system and the process will be faster as people are now aware of the importance of vaccination.
“The knowledge about the disease and safety of the vaccine is increasing and people are getting more confident and we are sure people will realise the importance of protecting themselves and each other from the disease. It is the duty of every Zimbabwean to protect each other from this disaster.”
At the same time vaccination centres are getting ready for the flow of people who have already had their first shot and who start returning to their vaccination centre from Monday, four weeks later.
Government sees vaccination as the only silver bullet to the Covid-19 disease.
Mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the country does not run out of vaccines.
Said Dr Mangwiro: “Vaccination is an ongoing process. We have procured 2 million doses that will be brought in batch by batch so that we don’t lose them to storage problems.
“As the uptake increases, we will also be increasing the pace at which we will be collecting our vaccines.”
Speaking soon after receiving their shots at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital yesterday, 72-year-old Janette Toet and her husband, Egbert (73), said vaccination was important to save lives of millions of elderly people in the country.
“Being pensioners and very vulnerable, we felt it was important for us to get vaccinated instead of walking around being uncomfortable all the time. Also as grandparents, we associate with our children and grandchildren and we don’t want to have the risk of spreading or even catching Covid-19,” said Janette.
Mr Toet said the negative sentiments being expressed on social media about vaccination were wrong and only served to derail a good initiative that could save lives.
A busload of teachers and staff from Chisipite Junior School also took the vaccine. Most of the staff said it was important for them to be protected as schools have been reopened.
“As people who work with children and we meet a lot of people, it was important for us to get vaccinated. At first it was scary but because of the information we have been receiving, the number of people coming to get vaccinated and the testimonies they are giving, we realised that it is okay to get the shot and be safe,” said Mr John Chingwaru, an administration staff member at Chisipiti Junior School.
Another member of staff, Mrs Anatolia Takafa, urged others to ignore the negative “things people say about vaccination”.
“Everyone should get vaccinated so that we can live to see our children grow,” she said.
In Mashonaland West, vaccination logistics to expand the programme are at an advanced stage. The province is also expected to start administering the second jab to the front liners who were inoculated during the first stage.
Provincial Education Director, Mr Gabriel Mhumha said logistics to start inoculating teaching staff were in place.
Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Rudo Chikodzore said the province was yet to receive its allocation of Covid-19 vaccines to cater for those falling under the second stage.
“We have started on the logistics to get the numbers of those teachers to be vaccinated in the province. In addition, you will note that we are yet to get our allocations of the doses from the national office. Once that is done we are ready to roll,” said Dr Chikodzore.
During the first phase, Matabeleland South got 11 000 doses to cater for 5 000 frontline workers in all the seven districts.
In Mashonaland East, the provincial medical director Dr Paul Matsvimbo said: “We have not yet received the vaccines here in Mashonaland East. We are still mapping to come up with the number of teachers and the elderly, who need to be vaccinated. Once we are done, we are going to submit to the ministry, and wait for directions on what to do next.”