THE Covid-19 vaccination programme targeting informal traders in Bulawayo began yesterday with a number of vendors being turned away upon failure to produce formal letters from the local authority as proof that they were licenced hawkers.
The government is targeting to vaccinate at least 15 000 market vendors in 10 days at market places largely considered as hotspots.
The programme is being rolled out at Large City Hall, Renkini (bus terminus) and Sokusile Shopping Centre before being taken to other market places around the city.
According to authorities at the Large City Hall, one has to produce a licence from the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) as proof that they are a registered informal trader.
When the Daily News visited the vaccination site, some frustrated and fuming vendors said authorities were failing them because they wanted to be vaccinated despite not possessing the licences.
Many workers from various supermarkets and firms from around the city also showed up and were turned away. At first, the workers were told to go and collect letters from their management, but upon return, they were told they were excluded from the targeted populace.
Police officers manning the area could be seen moving around trying to explain to people who were eligible and not in the targeted inoculation exercise.
“Those without letters, can you please leave the queue and those from reputable supermarkets and companies this is not your opportunity. Here we want informal traders with letters from the city council as proof that they are registered. If you don’t possess such qualities, please leave the queue,” said an officer screening people at the centre.
Disgruntled traders, who had arrived at Large City Hall as early as 5am, said it was not fair to be turned away without getting the jab.
“Some of us are just vendors who move around selling, and we don’t have any licence from city council.
“When the government announced this programme, it did not specify about letters and licences. So, how do people like us get vaccinated? After all, this is a basic right that everyone should access. At the end of the day, we mix with people also,” said one of the vendors.
Another vendor accused the officials and health workers at the vaccination site of corruption.
“Some people have just come now, but already they are in front of the queue. While it is a government programme, there are people who have personalised it and it is now a matter of who knows who. I believe such programmes should be non-partisan,” said Collen Nyathi.
Those who produced the required documents received their jabs although they complained that the process was slow.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association’s executive director Michael Ndiweni said inoculating the informal sector was crucial in the government’s fight against Covid-19.
“We welcome the vaccination drive because it is what we have been advocating for and we are happy that the government has responded.
“We are calling on traders to respond also and get vaccinated because this is the only way that we can achieve herd immunity and be able to work as informal traders,” Ndiweni said.
Bulawayo provincial medical director Welcome Mlilo said the exercise would encourage the uptake of the vaccine by many people as the country targets herd immunity.
“The programme aimed at vaccinating informal market traders kicked off today (yesterday) and will run up to July 15. We are targeting to vaccinate around 15 000 market traders during this exercise. We are expecting a positive turn up of informal traders as the country targets herd immunity,” he said.
Zimbabwe recently received 500 000 vaccines to boost the national inoculation drive with a further two million doses expected by August.
As of yesterday, 797 715 had received their Covid-19 vaccines, while authorities are targeting at least 10 million by year end.