BULAWAYO City Council’s (BCC) Covid-19 vaccination drive is beset by inadequate distribution of doses, forcing the local authority to adopt a deliberate strategy not to actively promote the inoculation of residents at this stage.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa got his first dose in Victoria Falls in March as he launched the second phase of the national vaccination exercise targeting security service personnel, teachers and the chronically ill, among others.
The country launched the first phase of the vaccination drive on 18 February after receiving the first batch of 200 000 Sinopharm vaccine doses donated by the Chinese government.
BCC health services director Edwin Sibanda told The NewsHawks on Wednesday that the city’s Covid-19 vaccination drive has been moving at a slow pace owing to limited supplies of vaccine doses.
“Generally, the uptake has not been as good as we would have wished because we have not received as many doses as we would have wanted,” Sibanda said in an interview.
“We last received 12 000 doses (in March) after our initial 13 200 (in February) and, because of that, we were a little apprehensive of opening up to anyone and everyone before we receive enough doses. Otherwise, once they give us more vaccines, we think we can open up to everybody.”
As of 6 April, 139 133 people had received their first Covid-19 jab, with 15 133 and 1 444 citizens receiving their first and second doses respectively on the day, statistics from the Child and Health Care ministry show.
Zimbabwe had recorded 36 966 Covid-19 cases and 1 531 fatalities as of Tuesday this week, the ministry said.
Sibanda added: “The uptake has been high in the low-density suburbs, but you will appreciate that this is because our vaccination centres catering for many groups such as the security sector, judiciary and newsmen have been concentrated in those areas and that may create a false impression that only people from the low-density suburbs have been coming forward for vaccination.”
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently said the government will be taking delivery of one million Covid-19 doses every month.
Bulawayo commentator Effie Ncube warned that vaccinating 60% of the population towards achieving herd community could prove elusive if the government does not ramp up the vaccination drive.
“The best way forward is to invest more in the acquisition of the vaccines and not to wait for donations from China, India and other countries. With limited acquisition and distribution of the vaccines, it will take forever to achieve herd community,” said Ncube, who also coordinates a Bulawayo residents’ initiative to mobilise Covid-19 material resources for city health facilities.
“The strategy is to acquire more and have an extensive vaccination programme that will cover every district and all age groups that scientifically qualify to take the vaccines.”
The government aims to vaccinate at least 60% of the population to attain herd immunity. Zimbabwe has so far received more than a million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Chinese firm Sinovac and another 35 000 of the Covaxin shot donated by the Indian government.
The government has authorised the use of four Covid-19 vaccines, namely China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, Russia’s Sputnik V and Covaxin from India.
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