Vaccination blitz begins Mbare Polyclinic nurse Sister Selina Khosa administers the Covid-19 vaccine to Chirodzo Primary School pupil Tauri Chivere, while Sister-in-Charge Judith Chibanda and other school children look on. Pictures: Memory Mangombe.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke-Senior Health Reporter

Vaccination teams moved into schools yesterday to open the expanded Covid-19 vaccination campaign, with a large number of learners in selected schools getting their first shots.

The schools’ blitz follows the finding by health experts that it was perfectly safe to vaccinate children aged 12 and above, is part of Government’s efforts to minimise the rate of infection, while also averting severe disease symptoms and possible death.

At Chirodzo Primary School in Mbare, almost 200 children received the jab when the team from the Ministry of Health and Child Care arrived and similar teams have been moving into other schools. 

Children aged 16 and above were mostly vaccinated towards the end of last year before they wrote their public exams, following the decision that it was safe to vaccinate 16 and 17 year olds.

Mbare polyclinic sister-in-charge Judith Chibanda said the programme had gone off to a good start.

“We started our vaccination campaign today and we will continue until May 3,” she said. “We will be concentrating mainly on school children from 12-15 years, but we are not leaving behind those who were not vaccinated in the previous campaigns. 

“We started at Chirodzo Primary School where we vaccinated almost 200 learners and we also have other teams in other areas like Mashawasha, Matapi and Sunningdale.” 

School children display their Covid-19 vaccination cards after receiving their first dose in Harare, yesterday.

Sister Chibanda said Mbare had a target of vaccinating at least 350 people a day during the blitz, adding that indications were that as more learners and adults came for their shots, they might exceed the targets.

“We are giving the learners health education before we vaccinate them so that they understand why they are getting the shot and how important it is. We are happy that parents are consenting to the programme and we are expecting to see more children coming forward,” she added.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme began in February last year with the frontline and essential workers, before being opened to everyone aged 18 and above. 

Government gave the green light for the administration of the vaccine to the 16-17 year old age group later in the year and sent teams into secondary schools.

The approval of the 12-15 year age group is expected to boost the number of shots given each day, which had significantly declined over the past few months.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Mr Taungana Ndoro encouraged parents to allow their children to get the vaccine to ensure a safe learning environment for them.

“The vaccination campaign kicked off very well,” he said. “We have schools that started today and the rest will start tomorrow. We are encouraging parents to allow their children to take the vaccine so that we can make sure that we have a Covid-free environment in schools as well as in the communities. 

“We encourage that every learner takes the jab because the vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. This way we can curb the spread of Covid-19 in our schools.” 

Mr Ndoro said staff members who had not received their jabs should also take advantage of the blitz so that they were not left behind.

Despite the good start to the exercise, there were reports at some schools that some parents had denied consent on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Mr Ndoro said it was important for all learners to get the vaccine to minimise outbreaks in schools.

“They should consider their health first because Covid is not selective and it does not discriminate based on your denomination or religious beliefs,” he said. “We are hoping that all parents will see reason and allow us to protect our learners.”

So far, 4 415 064 Zimbabweans have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 3 441 731 have received two doses. 

Another 178 137 people have received the third booster dose.

The new vaccination campaign will be conducted in two phases from March to May, with the first phase running from March 21 to April 3, while the second phase will run from May 2 to 15.

Vaccinations will be taking place in both public and private health facilities, schools, workplaces, markets and churches as well as at outreach points across the country.

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