ZIMBABWE has missed the December target to vaccinate about 60% of the population to meet herd immunity, with only less than 25% having been jabbed so far, amid fears of a fourth wave.
Health experts said vaccine hesitancy slowed the vaccination drive.
The government planned to achieve 60% herd immunity with the vaccination of 10 million people by December.
But statistics from the Health and Child Care ministry shows that about 3.8 million people have been vaccinated, while 2 851 942 have been fully vaccinated.
This represents about 25% of the estimated 15-million-strong Zimbabwean population having been jabbed, less than half of the targeted 60%, amid fears of a fourth wave following a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga last week said the country has also recorded cases of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, which was detected in Botswana and South Africa.
A research institution, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), last week said attaining herd immunity remains a far-fetched dream.
“The government of Zimbabwe took seven months to vaccinate 38% of the targeted herd immunity population. It follows that the attainment of herd immunity now requires the government to vaccinate the remaining 68% in two months,” the ZDI said.
Last month, the Health ministry said the vaccination programme had reached a national coverage of 38% of the targeted population.
“It is apparent the government is faced with a huge mountain to climb, considering the rate at which Covid-19 vaccination is moving. The attainment of Covid-19 herd immunity in Zimbabwe is a dream that is far-fetched.
“This is despite mandatory vaccination of civil servants that has so far managed to have 99% of public sector workers vaccinated against Covid-19.”
In November, the Health ministry started vaccinating teenagers to boost numbers.
Mpilo Central Hospital senior resident medical officer Dr Misheck Ruwende said hesitancy fuelled by misinformation on the efficacy of the vaccines is to blame for Zimbabwe’s failure to attain herd immunity.
“For Zimbabwe it is mainly hesitancy rather than other factors. But this looks more to be an African problem than a Zimbabwean, especially when you consider that we are ranked among the best regardless of our low vaccination rates,” Ruwende said.
“Hesitancy was actually fuelled by misinformation and, also, there was a limited choice of vaccines. Increasing diversity of vaccines will have a great impact. It may not necessarily be approving more vaccines, but making available the approved ones.”
Apart from the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, the government, through the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, has also approved Covaxin from India and Sputnik V from Russia.
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) director Itai Rusike added: “Lack of sustained credible information resulted in the rise of misinformation, disinformation, science denialism, anti-vaccine sentiments and vaccine hesitancy, resulting in low uptake of vaccines.”
The country kicked off the Covid-19 vaccination drive in February after receiving a donation of 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Chiwenga, who doubles as the country’s health minister, was the first to receive the jab.