Zimbabwe's vice-president becomes first citizen to get Covid-19 vaccine
"Life can never be bought. Once you die, that’s it."
These were the words of Zimbabwe’s Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga as he became the first citizen to get the first shot of the two-dose Chinese Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday.
The retired army general who doubles up as health minister volunteered to take his jab in public at Wilkins Hospital, a Covid-19 centre in Harare, as part of the government’s effort to get buy-in from a sceptical public.
In a statement, President Emmerson Mnangagwa thanked his deputy for the bold move.
“Thank you to Vice-President and health minister Constantino Chiwenga for showing Zimbabwe that this vaccine is safe for all our people. This is a historic moment in our country’s fight against this virus,” he said.
After Chiwenga, staff at the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital also received shots of the vaccine on a voluntary basis.
The first medical worker to receive the jab was Violet Badze, the acting sister in charge at the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. She told TimesLIVE that she was very lucky and was relieved.
“I am now confident of going to work because I am protected. Now that people have seen us take it [the vaccine], I hope they will also take the same step - but it’s voluntary,” she said.
Those who got their first doses on Thursday will receive the second on March 18.
There have been concerns raised that the Sinopharm vaccine is still at the third stage of clinical trials. According to a WHO fact sheet, the ongoing trials were approved in the United Arab Emirates, China, Jordan, Bahrain and Egypt.
Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 co-ordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva reassured the public that the vaccination rollout was not an experiment and that they would closely follow developments in those vaccinated.