Zimbabwe plans to buy up to 1.8 million doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said, as the country received its first vaccines Monday.
A consignment of 200,000 doses of the vaccine, donated by China, arrived in Zimbabwe early on Monday. A further 600,000 doses, bought from Sinopharm by Zimbabwe, is expected early March.
Zimbabwe is ordering more from Sinopharm, Ncube said.
“We have a program. Next month we will be acquiring additional vaccines from China, to the tune of at least 600,000 doses and the programme will continue as we head towards the target of 1.8 million doses,” Ncube said at a ceremony to receive the vaccines at the airport.
“We will carry on until we’re able to cover the herd immunity population of at least 10 million Zimbabweans. Only then will we know that everyone is protected.”
Apart from Sinopharm, Zimbabwe has also applied for access to vaccines available under the global COVAX facility. Zimbabwe’s allocation there is 1,152,000 doses. Zimbabwe is also eligible for an additional three million doses under a separate African Union vaccine plan.
Zimbabwe is also in talks to buy the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia and more doses from India, officials have said.
Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga, at the airport to receive the cargo, said the vaccine was Zimbabwe’s best chance at “returning to normalcy”.
“We receive this vaccine as a glimmer of hope that finally we may be returning to some semblance of normalcy,” Chiwenga said.
He praised China, which has donated vaccines to 58 other developing countries.
“It has not been lost on us that, in time of need, China’s response has been swift, resulting in this donation being the first vaccine to reach our country,” Chiwenga said.
“China has 1.4 billion people who are also in need of the vaccine, but China has said treating the Chinese people alone will not solve the problems of the world.”
Chinese ambassador Guo Shaochun said: “We’re also facing the enormous demand for supply of vaccines in China. But Zimbabwe is our brother, so the supply of vaccines to Zimbabwe is not a problem.”
As at February 14, Zimbabwe had 35,172 confirmed cases, including 30, 601 recoveries and 1 400 deaths. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is due to make a speech on Monday afternoon on the lockdown, on the day that the current measures expire.