As Zimbabwe scales up its national vaccination programme against Covid-19, the arrival of the first consignment of the Covaxin vaccine from India will complement efforts to promote sustainable access to effective vaccines.
President Mnangagwa was yesterday at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to accept the first batch of 35 000 doses of India's first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, the first tranche of the 75 000 doses of Covaxin donated by the Indian Government.
The President said the gift from the Indian Government was a welcome and timely intervention at a time the country was fighting the pandemic.
"This generous gift is welcome as a timely gesture of friendship, support and solidarity in the midst of these unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic. As you are aware, my Government has put in place measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Key among the strategies is the rollout of the vaccination programme to target 60 percent of our population towards the achievement of herd immunity," he said.
Zimbabwe last week launched the second phase of the vaccination programme to include teachers, security services, judiciary, the clergy, elderly and people with chronic illnesses over and above the initial target group of frontline workers.
President Mnangagwa said Phase Three of the exercise would be rolled out later to include the rest of the eligible population.
Zimbabwe and India shared cordial relations dating back to the liberation struggle, said the President, which had deepened in the health sector to include exchanges in specialised medical equipment and the supply of pharmaceuticals from India.
"To this end, Zimbabwe remains committed to the implementation of a memorandum of understanding on traditional and complementary medicines that was signed between our two countries recently. We also look forward to strengthening the existing cooperation for the mutual benefit of our economies," he said.
He urged Indian investors to take advantage of the numerous opportunities presented by the National Development Strategy 1.
Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Vijay Khanduja said the donation was testimony to the strong relations India shared with Zimbabwe.
So far almost 60 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine had been injected in 75 countries across the world.
"Millions have received the vaccine in India alone and that should put to rest any doubts and scepticism about the vaccine. The vaccine has proved to be 81 percent effective in the clinical trials we have done so far and
it has proven to be effective even against the mutant strains," he said.
He said India had stood in solidarity with the Government of Zimbabwe during the pandemic by donating medicines worth US$1 million as well as a consignment of rice last year.
"Our philosophy regards the entire world as one family. In this spirit, we wish and pray for the health, happiness and peace for everybody. We hope that the vaccines will provide the much needed relief to the pandemic," said Mr Khanduja.
Minister of Health and Child Care Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said Covid-19 continued to pose a threat across the world amid reports of the emergence of a third wave.
"Zimbabwe is among the first group of countries which embarked on a deliberate vaccination programme in Africa. Plans are underway to procure more Covaxin vaccines until herd immunity is achieved," he said.
He encouraged Zimbabweans across the political divide to be vaccinated as Government moved to ensure that the Covid-19 vaccines were distributed to every part of the country, including outlying areas.
Covaxin, like the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines already in use in Zimbabwe, is an inactive vaccine using killed Covid viruses along with a trace of a chemical to stimulate the immune reaction. These contrast with the live vaccines that use engineered RNA.
The dead vaccines are regarded as the safest as no living matter or poison is injected, and having the complete virus coat, although without the virus, means that the immune reaction is far more likely to be able to deal with variants.