AUTHORITIES have cleared the Chinese coronavirus jabs — which arrived in the country on Monday — paving the way for the government’s national vaccination programme that is initially targeting frontline workers to get under way this week.
The national chief Covid-19 co-ordinator in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva, confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the SinoPharm vaccines had been certified as both safe to use and effective against the virulent respiratory disease.
This comes as a few people have questioned the safety and efficacy of the SinoPharm vaccines, in the apparent but mistaken belief that those manufactured in the West are superior.
Mahomva said the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (Mcaz) was satisfied with both the safety and efficacy of the Chinese vaccines.
“No one should be afraid of taking the vaccine because we are very meticulous.
“The vaccination process started with the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe analysing the vaccine and gathering data on the sample size so that we do the right numbers.
“It’s efficacy and safety is in no doubt. People must not listen to alarmist health experts politicking … They are just pulling wool in your faces,” Mahomva told the Daily News.
“We cannot stop the country from moving forward with such an important public health initiative just because about 10 people who we doubt havehave even consulted their constituencies are skeptical.
“We have heard so much from social media about vaccines — with people, including surprisingly some medical experts expressing scepticism, but that will not stop the government from moving forward.
“We believe in what our scientists are saying and that is what our people must go by. Zimbabwe is moving forward with or without sceptics. After all, nobody is being forced to take the vaccine,” Mahomva further told the Daily News.
“The deployment of the vaccine is being processed now after we had a meeting with provincial medical directors throughout the country, so that the issue of the cold chain is properly followed and also to get them to mobilise their provincial immunisation teams so that people begin to receive the jabs.
“We have mobile district vaccination teams that will be roving around and going to designated areas to vaccinate frontline workers.
“Each health facility, including clinics, will be vaccinating andthere will be strict monitoring for adverse reactions following the vaccination,” the former Child and Health Care ministry’s permanent secretary added.
“We are also almost done with the training of the immunisation teams on how to administer this specific vaccine and it’s not taking us long because they are already trained in administering vaccines.
“What we are merely doing is to jog their minds on the specific details of this specific vaccine,” Mahomva also said.
This comes as the government plans to vaccinate at least 10 million people against the deadly virus which has killed hundreds of locals — among them Cabinet ministers and business executives since the turn of this year.
It also comes as authorities have once again extended the hard Covid-19 lockdown by a further two weeks, in a bid to contain the virulent respiratory disease while it awaits another batch of 600 000 doses of the vaccine from China.
Speaking after receiving the vaccines on Monday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga — who is also the country’s Health and Child Care minister — said the arrival of the jabs had given Zimbabweans hope of things returning to normalcy soon.
“It gives hope to our people that we might now turn a new page following the unfortunate interruptions to economic activities that have been necessitated by the need to contain the virus in the form of the lockdowns, so that the virus does not spread further.
“When we start giving the jabs to our front-line workers, we are not going to stop. We are going to continue giving to the needy first until we vaccinate 60 percent of our population,” he said.
In the meantime, the arrival of the vaccines has also been hailed by many Zimbabweans, including by opposition parties — who have praised authorities for “showing commitment to end the current Covid-19 chaos” in the country.
“The government is commended for finally putting its money where its mouth is. However, we are a long way off in terms of the quantities we need.
“We propose an immediate roll-out in order to hasten our scale down of the lockdown conditions. People need to get back to productivity in order to sustain their families.
“We must all tirelessly urge the government to lead the way in creating the best conditions under the circumstances in order to salvage our livelihoods,” the spokesperson of the main opposition MDC, Witness Dube, told the Daily News.
MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson, Clifford Hlatywayo, also said they welcomed the arrival of the vaccines, but urged the government to ascertain the efficacy of the jabs.
“More details on the distribution plan of the vaccine are required to make the plan implementable. The people need to know the size of each target population in all the phases of vaccination, for example, how many healthcare workers we are targeting.
“When we say security, how many people are there? There are a few important aspects to consider when selecting a vaccine. These include vaccine efficacy, safety, cost and accessibility.
“We do hope that the government has put in place robust mechanisms of tracking the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine in Zimbabwe.
“Within the first six weeks of commencement of vaccination we should know what the efficacy of the vaccine is in our own setting, considering the emergence of various mutants of the virus,” Hlatywayo told the Daily News.
The Church also said it was hopeful that the arrival of the vaccines would start the journey back to normal life — after more than a year of tough restrictions for ordinary people and companies.
The president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Henry Ruzvidzo, said the arrival of vaccines should see the easing of lockdown measures to allow business to resume full operations.
“The vaccines give us reason for optimism as repeated cycles of lockdowns take a heavy toll on business viability.
“Our hope is that appropriate targeted vaccination will assist in managing the pandemic and usher in a return to normal activity,” Ruzvidzo told the Daily News.
The government has said its intention is to acquire 1,8 million doses of vaccines from Beijing — in order to “save lives first and then livelihoods next”.
Zimbabwe has set aside US$100 million for vaccine procurement, which authorities say will be enough to purchase 20 million doses needed to immunise the population and achieve 60 percent herd immunity