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Zimbabwe reaches new vaccination milestone

by Staff reporter
20 Sep 2021 at 07:06hrs | Views
Zimbabwe has recorded another positive achievement in its Covid-19 vaccination roll-out and has been listed among 13 African countries that have reached the World Health Organisation (WHO) target to fully vaccinate more than 10 percent of its population by the end of September, hitting 2,05 million people or 13,67 percent of its population with both shots by Saturday.

Seychelles leads the African field with 72 percent, followed by Mauritius on 55 percent and, Morocco on 44 percent, Tunisia 21 percent, Comoros 18 percent, Cabo Verde 18 percent, Eswatini 16 percent and Lesotho 15 percent. Zimbabwe comes in tied with Botswana with over 13 percent of the total population having been fully vaccinated.

South Africa on 12 percent, Mauritania 12 percent and Equatorial Guinea 11 percent complete the list of African countries that have reached the WHO target. When looking at continuing progress, the African countries that have given at least one shot, Zimbabwe has just under 20 percent in this group, placing the country seventh in Africa after the four small island states of Seychelles, Mauritius, Cano Verde and Comoros and the two North African countries of Morocco and Tunisia.

According to the WHO, crippling vaccine supply shortages have slowed down the vaccine roll out in many African countries but Zimbabwe, like the others in the top ranks, has pushed hard to procure its own vaccines rather than wait for aid programmes and has now adequate stocks and a good supply chain to ensure that there will be no vaccine shortages to delay the programme. Countries relying on aid donor supplies tend to have very low vaccine rates since most aid schemes are yet to move into high gear.

Sometime yesterday the Zimbabwe national programme would have given its 5 millionth jab, there being besides the 2 050 830 people with both jabs by Saturday, another 890 220 with one shot for a total of 2 941 050 with at least one short and 4,99 million doses given out. The Treasury set aside US$100 million for vaccine procurement which has been used to purchase 12 million vaccine doses.

Responding to questions on Zimbabwe's vaccination programme during an interview in New York last week, Finance and Economic Minister Mthuli Ncube said: "We have done well as a country. So far we have procured 12 million doses of vaccines which have already come in. That should be able to cover 6 million Zimbabweans in two doses and we are driving towards a target of about 10 million people in the next few months. We have bought these vaccines. We have received very little in terms of donations and we are happy that Zimbabweans have welcomed these vaccines and we are pushing hard so that we get to that herd immunity," he said.

While Government has been doing well in making vaccines available for Zimbabweans, public health experts believe more strategies need to be employed to increase vaccine literacy and close the information gaps that have created hesitancy in some areas. This will boost the pace of the national vaccination exercise.

While the past week saw the number of doses administered rise to 306 121 after a three week decline it is still way below the more than 500 000 the health system can deliver in a week, with first doses only being around a third of the total. The number of second doses was directly linked to the higher first dose rate four weeks earlier.

Community working group on health (CWGH) executive director Mr Itai Rusike said, due to limited education, information and awareness campaigns, the country could witness a rise of misinformation and negative sentiments that could slow down the move towards achieving herd immunity.

"Tackling disinformation and misinformation will require a multi-lingual public education campaign with respectful engagement of communities so that there is informed community participation in the national Covid-19 vaccination roll-out programme. We learnt with HIV and AIDS that disinformation, quackery and deliberate spreading of false and misleading anti-science sentiments will cost us lives. It is urgent that we address this to save lives. This requires national information programmes, on all platforms and accessible popular education materials and better communication," he said.

Mr Rusike said there was need for more people to willingly take the vaccine hence the engagement with religious leaders, traditional leaders, political leadership was required to encourage people to embrace the vaccine. He said public trust in the vaccine needed to be pushed, which required a widespread communication strategy and plan. "Without widespread vaccination, we will not be able to end this pandemic and be able fully open the economy, social sectors and get back to our normal routines," he said.

"We also need to ensure that there is continued and uninterrupted supply of vaccines to remote locations such as rural communities."

Mashonaland faculty of the College of primary health care physicians of Zimbabwe (CPCPZ) chairman Dr Enock Mayida concurred that there was need for more targeted campaigns to encourage more people to take the jab.

"I think vaccine hesitancy comes through when people feel that lockdown regulations and Covid protocols are relaxed. They then don't feel compelled to get vaccinated, nor do they feel that if they are not vaccinated they may be barred in certain service areas or institutions," he said. He said the Government needed to put in place measures that would make people feel obligated to get the vaccines.

Last week the Government made it compulsory for all civils servants to have both shots by October 15 or face disciplinary measures, and a growing number of private employers are now developing similar strategies.

Source - the herald