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Mat North paralysed by Covid-19 vaccine shortage



MATABELELAND North province has temporarily suspended the administration of the first Covid-19 Sinovac doses after running out of vaccines, health officials say.

Provincial medical director Munekayi Padingani told The NewsHawks that the suspension includes the resort city of Victoria Falls that was initially prioritised during the second phase of the vaccination drive to promote tourism.

“People are still coming for their first doses, unfortunately we no longer have enough to cater for them, so we have had to stop giving them until further notice,” Padingani said.

“We are currently only administering the second doses and this includes even the rural population and everyone in the province.”

Padingani said even though there was too much skepticism on the uptake of the vaccine in past months, the turnout has largely improved.

“The demand is now high though, and the uptake has improved. Although people are coming, we can’t offer them dose one when we know that we can’t give them dose two,” he said.

“The country is waiting for the third consignment and that’s where we are going to make sure that we administer the vaccination to all those in need of it now.”

Concerns have been raised by villagers especially in Nkayi who complained about the long distances they travel to health centres. Simanga Dube (27), a villager from Mathetshaneni area, said she was turned away twice last week at the main hospital and has lost interest in the vaccination programme.

“Our village has no clinic nearby and the closest hospital is about 12 kilometres so when l heard about these vaccine rollout, I walked to the main hospital (Nkayi) and the receptionist told me that the vaccination programme was put on hold and advised me to check again this week and they gave me another excuse, so l doubt I’ll go back again anytime soon.”

Padingani, however, said they had not received any complaints about long distances travelled by citizens to health centres.

“We are not having that kind of problem for now because these people find their own way to reach to the clinics or hospitals,  but we will see when we get to phase three if they’ll be need for outreach.”

Matabeleland North province has seven districts, namely Tsholotsho, Lupane, Nkayi, Hwange, Binga, Umguza and Bubi.

Zimbabwe purchased 200 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine which arrived from China in March in addition to a donation of  400 000 Sinopharm doses from China.

The first phase of Zimbabwe’s vaccination campaign, which relied on Sinopharm, targeted front-line workers such as health care personnel, border post officials, gravediggers and journalists.

Since the beginning of the first phase in February, the Health ministry has reported that 678 003 and 353 278 people had received their first and second dose vaccinations as of 2 June.

The country’s second phase is targeting schoolteachers, religious leaders, security forces, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases. The vaccines that the country’s health authorities have approved for use include the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China, Russia’s Sputnik-V and India’s Covaxin, although only the Chinese vaccines have arrived in this southern African country.

Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate 10 million people, representing 60% of the country’s population, in an effort to achieve herd immunity, which is when enough people have immunity, either from vaccination or past infection, to stop the uncontrolled spread of a virus.

As of 2 June, Zimbabwe had recorded 38 998 coronavirus cases with  1 599 deaths and  36 624 recoveries.

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