The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) wants government to conduct clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine and other Covid-19 drugs before administering the jabs on the population.
However, the lawyers' demands come as the vaccine rollout programme kicked off at Wilkins Hospital in Harare yesterday where Vice President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga was the first citizen to voluntarily receive the Chinese-made jab.
Health workers and security forces are on top of the priority list to be vaccinated.
Government on Monday took delivery of some 200 000 Sinopharm vaccine doses donated by China. More jabs from the China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom are expected in the coming weeks.
In a letter written to Chiwenga on Wednesday, the ZLHR demanded the government follow the three-phase process of clinical development of vaccine rollout, which include testing with a small group before administering to a larger population. This is done to ascertain the safety of doses.
The lawyers raised concern over the vaccination process on the basis of unflattering utterances by Health and Child Care acting permanent secretary Robert Mudyandima who said the government was conducting clinical trials during vaccination.
"Our client was taken aback by the pronouncement made by acting Health secretary Dr Robert Mudyirandima who said on ZBC news bulletin on February 15 2021, that during roll out, tests will be done to measure its effectiveness on current mutations, variants and strains," wrote Mbizo, Muchadehama and Makoni legal practitioners on behalf of ZLHR.
"It is therefore our client's view that clinical trials precede the rolling out of the vaccination programme, the aim being to establish whether the vaccination drug undergoing trial is safe to administer and will not have adverse side effects. Clinical trials cannot be conducted simultaneously with the actual vaccination as the acting health secretary appears to suggest."
Lawyers are worried that the Sinopharm vaccine has proved to have side effects in other jurisdictions where it has been administered. They told the government to respect the rights of the public enshrined in Section 52 of the Constitution which provides for an individual's right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments.
"Our client therefore demands an assurance that clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccine and any future Covid-19 vaccines to be imported, whose results will be made public, will be conducted first, and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines established before the population or any select group thereof is vaccinated."