Zimbabwe: Vaccination of Frontliners Continues Smoothly

Africa needs timely access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines (file image).
24 February 2021

The national Covid-19 vaccination programme entered day two yesterday, and continues smoothly in all provinces.

Spread to all districts starting Monday, the initiative is part of accelerated efforts by Government to immunise at least 10 million people for free, which will help in returning the country to normalcy.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care confirmed the smooth running of the inoculation programme.

"The programme is continuing in all districts and the target remains of completing the exercise within 10 days," said the Ministry's spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri.

"We did not receive any negative feedback and the process is going smoothly countrywide."

The initial phase of the vaccination programme is targeting frontline health workers, while other groups are expected to be immunised next.

Government yesterday also said it had set aside enough money to procure the vaccination jabs to cover those willing to be inoculated across the country.

Speaking during the Midlands provincial Covid-19 vaccination roll-out programme in Kwekwe yesterday, where the Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Senator Larry Mavima took the first jab, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said more vaccines would be imported to speed up the programme.

"We want to do this vaccination process as soon as possible. In two weeks time, we will be receiving about 600 000 more jabs and we have another firm that will be giving us the vaccines in large quantities; at least a million jabs.

"This will enable us to vaccinate at least 10 million people in a short period of time and help curb the rapid spread of the disease," said Dr Mangwiro.

He urged Zimbabweans to embrace the vaccination programme and dismissed social media reports alleging that the vaccine had some side effects, saying the Sinopharm vaccine had gone through a number of tests locally and abroad.

"These vaccines have been thoroughly analysed by our local medical experts just like what they do on any imported drug

"It has been proven to be the only solution. We know there are some prophets of doom who have been going around saying all kind of things about the drug but I can assure you as one of the first people to get vaccinated that this drug does not have any side effects," he said.

Dr Mangwiro said Government was still doing research on other traditional medicines some people were taking to stop the spread of Covid-19.

He said no traditional herb had so far been scientifically proven to be effective in fighting Covid-19.

The deputy minister said those who were undergoing treatment for some chronic diseases should continue taking drugs even after being inoculated.

"If one has been taking medication for tuberculosis, high blood pressure, asthma

or any other chronic disease, you should not stop because you have been inoculated. The vaccine is meant to protect you against contracting Covid-19 and not other diseases," he said.

Dr Mangwiro who, toured a number of isolation centres and health facilities in Kwekwe and Redcliff, bemoaned lack of oxygen facilities.

Last week, the country received 200 000 Sinopharm vaccine doses donated by the Chinese government with the country procuring an additional 600 000 doses set to arrive in the country early next month.

Over 400 frontline workers have taken the Covid-19 vaccine in Bulawayo within two days of the rolling out of the programme in the city.

Bulawayo has four teams vaccinating frontline workers who were placed at the forefront of the programme due to the risks associated with their duties.

Health workers, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Customs and Immigration personnel and those in the security sector will receive the Covid-19 vaccine jabs in the first phase of the country's Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Government started the vaccination programme last Thursday.

President Mnangagwa has said rolling out of the vaccination programme is the route to bringing life back to normal.

Bulawayo Health Services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said Bulawayo Province was satisfied with how the vaccination programme was ongoing.

Bulawayo is targeting to inoculate about 6 600 frontline workers against Covid-19.

"There is no separation between council, private sector or any department in the roll-out of the vaccination in Bulawayo. This is a national programme and we are implementing it. What we are doing is that we have four teams involved in the vaccination programme. From those four teams some are stationed at United Bulawayo Hospitals, another at Mpilo Central Hospital and we have two mobile teams," said Dr Sibanda.

"So, we are vaccinating frontline workers in Bulawayo. Today we had 293 people vaccinated and yesterday we had 118. So far so good, everything is going according to plan. We haven't faced any challenges."

He said it was premature to make a judgment on whether there is high or low uptake of the vaccine doses.

"It's too early to evaluate the response at the moment. Because at the end of the vaccination period we have to consider the number of people who came and refused to take the vaccine, those who came and promised to take the vaccine but did not take it and how many outrightly refused to take the vaccine. So, we have to assess all the refusals and acceptances," he said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Matabeleland North have said there is need to intensify health education to sensitise the public about the importance of taking up the ongoing Covid-19 vaccinations.

The country rolled out a national vaccination programme which started across all provinces on Monday.

On Monday, 118 were vaccinated against Covid-19 in Matabeleland North as the province targets 4 082 frontline workers.

Acting Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Munekayi Padingani said the programme started well across Matabeleland North.

"The response is okay now. Yesterday (Monday) people were a bit hesitant and we managed to vaccinate 118 with only one team failing to report by end of day but today it is better. Yes, we can say awareness was not enough and we have to intensify that. As long as we continue vaccinating we will have to sensitise people so they know why we are doing this process," he said.

In Hwange District, the district medical officer Dr Fungayi Musinami-Mvura was the first one to take the jab at the hospital yesterday followed by district nursing officer Sr Winfrida Ngwenya and Dr Michael Nyakura, an obstetrician and gynaecologist stationed at the institution.

Sr Shadreck Chisose of Jambezi Clinic was administering the jabs and was explaining about the vaccine and process before injecting them.

The district covered rural clinics on Monday where the response was also low, according to Dr Musinami-Mvura.

However, if events at Victoria Falls Hospital on Tuesday were anything to go by, the programme is likely to be a success as staffers were showing interest.

"We have rolled out the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Hwange District. Yesterday we were in the rural centres and today we are at Victoria Falls Hospital for public and private sector health personnel. We will also be vaccinating Zimra and immigration at ports of entry. We are slow but from today I think we will be getting into a good flow," said Dr Musinami-Mvura.

"The response was not as huge as we would have wanted it to be due to the issue of lack of health information. Some opted to have a little time to think and consider and we are allowing them to do so. We will obviously be going back to see if there are any changes in their preferences concerning the vaccine. Generally, the response was not as great as we would have wanted it to be and we are hoping that as we give more information, we will get better results."

She said sensitisation is being done parallel to the vaccination.

"We are very grateful to partners for the vaccine and those who have assisted with transport so we reached all facilities. There is a lot of anxiety around the vaccine hence we are intensifying distribution of health information around the vaccine because there has been a lot of controversy, myths and misconceptions.

"Our health promotion teams are also moving together with the vaccination teams in order to allay some of the anxiety and fears concerning the vaccine because we find that this is the biggest hurdle in terms of acceptance," added Dr Musinami-Mvura.

She said one of the greatest obstacles that has been raised concerning the Covid-19 vaccine is lack of enough information about it.

She implored Zimbabweans to be mindful of the fact that the Covid-19 vaccination is an emergency hence time and speed are important to save lives.

A nurse who preferred to remain anonymous said she decided to be vaccinated to protect herself and her family.

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