GOVERNMENT says it has budgeted US$100 million for Covid-19 vaccines, targeting 10 million people out of a total population of 15 million.
This comes amid growing criticism that President Emmerson Mnangawga’s government has no coherent strategy, plan of action and implementation matrix to combat the intensifying pandemic which has killed 1 160 people – including four ministers – so far.
Critics say Mnangagwa and his government’s only plan is the lockdown.
“There is no leadership. They have no strategy, no plan and no vaccine,” former Finance minister Tendai Biti said.
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga, who is substantive Vice-President and Health minister, said the lockdown has now been extended to 15 February as battles with the pandemic escalate. After criticism and pressure, government says it is now moving to acquire vaccines.
In an interview, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said he has set aside US$100m to procure 20 million vaccine doses to inoculate people against the virus ravaging the country.
“We are targeting about 10 million people, the best herd immunity which our health people have suggested we need. We are in the process of mobilising US$100 million for this project. We have that money, an equivalence of it. Yes, we would want some more funds in the event that we are forced to go up to 12 million people. We have pegged the average price of a single dose at US$5,” Ncube said.
“We are in talks with the private sector so that they could come in and bolster our resources.”
Mnangagwa this week held a virtual meeting with private sector executives over Covid-19.
The pandemic is overrunning government and overwhelming hospitals and health workers.
Zimbabwe has 32 646 confirmed infections as at 28 January, but testing is not widely available and the number of people affected by the outbreak is feared to be significantly higher.
“We actually discovered that vaccines are cheaper than testing. If we inoculate more, we are better off,” Ncube said.
The minister said he was still unaware as to when the country will get the doses as talks on availability and shipment of the vaccines with manufacturers are still ongoing.
“We are definitely taking into account the value for money aspect in our talks. We are also looking at accessibility of the vaccine to us here. All those are issues under consideration,” Ncube said.
Since March last year when the country recorded the first Covid-19 case, Ncube said the government has used more than ZW$20 billion in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some of the funds have been used to pay allowances for the frontline workers, cushioning the vulnerable as well as refurbishment of health centres. We also used the money to get the drugs and the PPEs (personal protective equipment),” Ncube said.
Zimbabwe has been accused of failing to provide enough PPE for health and frontline workers, and fixing dilapidated hospitals and collapsed infrastructure in the sector.
To mitigate the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has said it has availed an ZW$18 billion stimulus package for the productive sectors, vulnerable social groups and provision of public services, especially health, water and sanitation.