Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has taken the Sinopharm vaccine, hoping to boost public confidence as he launched a programme targeting to deliver vaccines to 10 million Zimbabweans.
Chiwenga, who is in charge of the Health Ministry, becomes the first Zimbabwean to take the shot. Nurse Siboniso Mlilo administered the injection at Wilkins Hospital.
“My presence here today, together with officials from my Ministry, is to exhibit the government’s confidence in the Sinopharm vaccine. I have received my COVID-19 jab, together with my deputy minister (John Mangwiro) and my staff. Therefore, I urge all Zimbabweans, to be vaccinated at their nearest health centres,” he said after taking the vaccine.
He said local tests had confirmed Sinopharm’s efficacy rate of 79%.
Government has been looking to boost public support for its vaccination programme, which is threatened by a mix of political rivalry, distrust of authorities, and general suspicion in vaccines.
Zimbabwe’s use of the Sinopharm vaccine from China has met with long-held anti-Chinese sentiment, despite the vaccine being used effectively and safely elsewhere around the world.
The country is in the process of registering Sinovac, another Chinese vaccine, for emergency use in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is also, separately, seeking 1.15 million vaccine doses available under the COVAX global facilities and three million more allocated under the African Union.
“More COVID-19 vaccines are expected in the country, till the required quantities are achieved in the shortest possible time,” said Chiwenga.
The vaccination rollout will be done in three phases, starting with frontline workers. Health and security personnel as well as Zimra, immigration and agriculture extension services will be covered under the first round of the first phase. The second round of the first phase will target the elderly (60 years plus), those with chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and TB, the prison population as well as refugee camp inmates.
The second phase covers teachers, lecturers, all college and school staff populations as well as any other workers deemed to be at medium risk, “depending with the epidemiological picture of the disease at that time.”
The rest of the population will be vaccinated in the final phase three.
According to Chiwenga’s schedule, around 60,000 people will be vaccinated in the first round, including all 49,000 health workers employed in the public service, about 4,200 medical staff in the security services, Zimra and immigration department personnel as well as agriculture extension workers, who number nearly 7,000.