Amid slow uptake, Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccination starts, targeting education sector and more workers

A nurse holds a vaccination card given to people who get he COVID-19 vaccine in Zimbabwe (pic: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Government will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to groups that had been targeted for the second phase of the rollout, Cabinet said, a sign of slower-than-expected uptake of vaccines.

The second phase includes staff in the education sector and a broad section of other workers, according to government’s rollout plan.  

“In view of extra vaccination capacity, Cabinet has resolved that those in Phase 2 of the National Vaccination Plan can start getting their vaccines,” Cabinet said in a statement.

Zimbabwe began vaccinations in February, hoping to inoculate 60,000 people in the first round of vaccinations.

According to a rollout plan presented to Parliament by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in February, government had originally targeted to vaccinate 49,000 health workers in the public service, about 4,200 medical staff in the security services, staff at Zimra and immigration, as well as nearly 7,000 agriculture extension workers.

However, a total of 35,761 people, mostly frontline workers, had been vaccinated by Tuesday.

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Chiwenga had also planned to complete the first phase inside ten days and the second round within five days. However, the first phase has taken close to a month.

With the bulk of the 200,000 vaccines still to be used, government says it is now allowing vaccinations for those that had been targeted for the second phase. This group, according to the original rollout plan, covers teachers, lecturers, as well as college and school staff.

It also covers other workers deemed to be at medium risk, “depending with the epidemiological picture of the disease at that time”, according to the rollout plan.

Vaccination: Back to school

Schools are due to reopen on March 15, starting with examination classes, with other classes returning to school a week later, on March 22.

The country’s largest teachers’ union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), says teachers and school staff must be vaccinated before classes can resume.

“The welcome development is that the country is well ahead of the pack when we look at Africa in terms of response in the wake of COVID-19 vaccination,” said ZIMTA president Richard Gundani. “What is needed is that everybody, including teachers and ancillary staff, is vaccinated and this is critical and important.”