By Debra Matabvu
Zimbabwe could receive its first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine next month, with the Government now finalising its national deployment plan and training of healthcare workers who will administer the inoculations, it has been established.
The country is preparing to take delivery of the vaccine procured under a global ground-breaking initiative led by the World Health Organisation, known as Covax, which plans to secure and distribute billions of doses to African countries, once licensed and approved.
The initiative has since secured two billion doses of the life-saving jabs, which will be distributed equitably to all participating nations beginning end of this month.
On Thursday, WHO announced that most African countries will start taking delivery of the vaccine between the end of January and mid-February.
WHO’s head of vaccines, Ms Kate O’Brien, announced that the first batch will reach African shores within weeks.
The Government will tomorrow finalise crafting of the deployment plan. Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said training of healthcare workers is underway.
Authorities are using data gathered from two extensive studies, commissioned to assess the country’s readiness for deployment of the vaccine, to prepare for the imminent rollout.
“We are arranging logistics for deployment and training healthcare workers in preparation for the rollout,” said Dr Mangwiro.
“We have set up a logistics committee that is working on that. In terms of timelines for distribution, we will only have a concrete answer next week (this week).
“We are working with speed to ensure that we are ready when we start receiving the vaccine.
“However, we are still working on a logistics plan that will include the distribution timelines.
“As you can see, a lot of countries are now working on getting the vaccine and we are also doing the same.”
Frontline healthcare workers and the elderly, who are most vulnerable to the virus, will be prioritised.
Dr Mangwiro counselled vigilance in observing Covid-19 preventative regulations while the country awaits deployment of vaccine.
“While the Government is working on getting the vaccine, prevention is what we should practice right now,” he said.
“If you look at the number of people dying and compare it to the country’s population, the ratio is quite high.
“We have a population of between 14 and 16 million, then we have 34 people dying in a single day . . . that is frightening.
“So, the Government will keep on encouraging people to be vigilant.”
Covax aims to secure dosages for 20 percent of the population in each participating country by the end of the year.
Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 16 million, meaning the country could potentially get up to 3,2 million doses under the first phase.
Ms O’Brien said delivery to Africa and South Asia would commence soon.
“The facility has access to over two billion doses of vaccine,” she said.
“We will start to deliver the vaccine probably by the end of January, and, if not, certainly between early and mid-February.
“That’s how countries in Africa, South Asia and others around the world that are party to Covax are actually going to get the vaccine.”
Moderna, a US biotechnology company, has produced a vaccine that it says provides nearly 95 percent immunity against the virus, while another vaccine with almost equally the same efficacy has been produced by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
Another vaccine developed by the University of Oxford provides around 70 percent protection. China and Russia already have approved vaccines, but both are yet to complete the final round of tests on people.
As of Friday, Zimbabwe had recorded 19 660 cases of the coronavirus, with 468 people having died from the virus. The Sunday Mail