100,000 Zimbabweans will get free Covid vaccination, thanks to China
About 100,000 Zimbabweans will be vaccinated against Covid-19 courtesy of a donation by China, expected within a week.
The 100,000 are drawn from front-line workers, the elderly and people with underlying illnesses. Zimbabwe will receive about 200,000 doses of the two-shot Sinopharm vaccine.
The front-line workers in Zimbabwe are nurses, police and the army. They make up the majority of the civil service of about 350,000.
Addressing the nation on Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping “for taking a leading role in contributing to our national vaccine deployment strategy”.
Speaking during a virtual World Cancer Day commemoration, Zimbabwe's vice-president Constantino Chiwenga said the vaccination programme would be optional and free, because life should not be bought.
“The government of Zimbabwe will roll out Covid-19 vaccines for free, to all our citizens who may wish to be vaccinated,” he said.
Chiwenga’s statement is a major climbdown from an initial revelation by finance minister Mthuli Ncube that “private citizens” would have to buy vaccines.
One of the leading voices in the fight against Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, medical professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said the donation was most welcome.
At policy level, Zimbabwe has resolved to put more emphasis on vaccinating the population ahead of testing because of the cost factor. A Covid-19 Test costs between $50 and $60, which is beyond the reach of many. Comparatively, a vaccine's estimated price range is $3-$7 per dosage. The target by the ministry of health and childcare with the help of donor partners is to vaccinate 10 million people, about two-thirds of the population.
“The Covid-19 vaccines which have been scientifically ascertained to be safe will be made available soon,” added Mnangagwa.
The MDC Alliance’s Fadzayi Mahere has called for transparency around the rolling out of the vaccine.
“This is the basic minimum we expect of those who collect our taxes. We demand that the vaccination roll out programme be made public. It must be transparent, evidence-based and free of any form of corruption. Health care is our constitutional right,” she said.
Since the outbreak in March last year, Zimbabwe has registered 39,964 cases and 1,269 deaths.