THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has embarked on an outreach mass Covid-19 vaccination of members of the public as it complements Government efforts to accelerate vaccination in order for the country to achieve herd immunity.
The programme is part of the ZDF Community Assistance Week ahead of the ZDF Day commemorations set for next Tuesday.
Annually during the ZDF Community Assistance Week, the military embarks on several projects where it assists communities in line with its constitutional mandate to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests, its territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution.
In the past the ZDF has constructed schools, clinics, rehabilitated roads and bridges as well as repaired infrastructure after disasters such as floods.
In Bulawayo the ZDF is complementing Government and Bulawayo City Council that have established 33 stationary vaccination centres and 29 mobile ones but are pushing for more due to the overwhelming response.
The ZDF vaccination programme which started yesterday, will run for seven days.
Soldiers in the health sector will be vaccinating residents in Cowdray Park and Emganwini suburbs.
In Cowdray Park, the ZDF vaccination team is stationed at Hlalani Kuhle Consortium Offices while in Emganwini the team is outside Food 4 Less shops. The Chronicle yesterday observed several residents queueing to be vaccinated by ZDF members in Emganwini suburb.
The residents said bringing the vaccination programme closer to the communities would see more people coming forward to be vaccinated. Bulawayo is targeting to vaccinate at least 400 00 residents to achieve herd immunity.
Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Headquarters Bulawayo District Commander Colonel Ossie Olie Mhandu said the deployment of military personnel to assist communities is within the ZDF mandate.
"This is our ZDF Community Assistant Week, besides providing defence to the nation, ZDF also plays a very important role in assisting the civil community. We support the communities within greater Bulawayo as Headquarters Bulawayo District. This is part of our duties during the first week of August where we conduct community assistance programmes," said Col Mhandu. She said the country like the rest of the world was grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and as ZDF they were complementing Government efforts to protect the people through vaccination.
"We have deployed our teams to Bulawayo's Emganwini and Cowdray Park suburbs to vaccinate members of the public," said Col Mhandu.
She encouraged citizens to take advantage of the vaccination teams that are in their area for a whole week.
"We appeal to all eligible residents to come forward and get vaccinated. We are not forcing anyone but I would encourage all eligible residents to get vaccinated. This is free of charge. This will assist us as a country to effectively combat the spread of the pandemic when we achieve herd immunity. We all need to embrace the vaccination programme because people are dying every day from this pandemic," she said.
Bulawayo Health Services director Dr Edwin Sibanda welcomed the support that the city is receiving from ZDF. He said their participation in the vaccination programme would see the city vaccinating more people during the week.
"My understanding of the Defence Forces Week is that they want to undertake programmes that have an impact on the people and this is one of them," said Dr Sibanda.
The ZDF is among institutions that were engaged when the Health Ministry expanded the vaccination programme.
They have however, been vaccinating serving ZDF members and their families as well as retired members of the force. This week they extended the service to members of the public ahead of the ZDF Day commemorations hence the deployment of vaccination teams to the city's suburbs.