By Nqobile Tshili
Procuring Covid-19 vaccines will cost the country far less compared to what it is spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) and other consumables to fight Covid-19 and what it is losing economically as a result of lockdown restrictions, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said yesterday.
Government has said it has set aside US$100 million to buy Covid-19 vaccine doses to inoculate at least 60 percent of the country’s population.
Prof Thuli said Zimbabwe has so far used approximately US$304 million to enforce national lockdown, buy PPE and pay health workers incentives.
The country has been on lockdown since the end of March last year, a development which has negatively impacted on the economy as only a few companies are operating for limited hours.
Government, the private sector and individuals are also forced to buy PPE such as sanitisers and face masks as well as regularly disinfect their premises.
Posting on micro blogging site Twitter yesterday, Prof Ncube said buying vaccines is more economic than purchasing PPE.
“The vaccine is cheaper than the costs of PPE, economic costs of lockdowns, and socio-psychological effects. With some innovative financial structuring and use of the 2020 budget surplus, we can purchase vaccines to inoculate the entire population of Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe is in negotiations with various sources of vaccines such as COVAX, China, India, Russia, and African Union initiative. The choice of vaccines to be acquired will be driven by availability, access, efficacy and pricing,” tweeted Prof Ncube.
He said Government spent more than $25 billion (about US$304 million) in buying PPE and $720 million was also set aside to cushion companies that had been affected by the national lockdown.
“In 2020, Government of Zimbabwe spent Z$25 billion on the fight against Covid-19, excluding the stimulus package. The resources covered different aspects such as risk allowances for frontline workers and others, upgrade of health facilities, drugs, PPE, lockdown enforcement,” he said.
Prof Ncube said Government was relying on revenue collections and lean spending to finance the buying of Covid-19 vaccines.
“Government revenues for the year 2020 were Z$182,6 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, revenues were Z$94,3 billion. Congratulations to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. Combined with prudent expenditure management, this will yield additional resources for the purchase of the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Prof Ncube.
As Government is planning the Covid-19 vaccine roll out, some private sector players are also angling to buy the vaccine so that they can inoculate their workers.
The Government has assured the public that it would provide safe vaccines for citizens saying all procured material will have to be certified by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe before use.
Meanwhile, Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the region and the continent are at the mercy of other countries as far as access to Covid-19 vaccines is concerned.
Dr Tax made the remarks following an online meeting held by the Sadc committee of Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General held on Friday to discuss issues to do with regional integration acceleration.
“It is unfortunate that we are yet to have a Covid-19 vaccine or cure developed from Sadc or Africa, as such, we are at the mercy of other countries as far as access to the vaccines is concerned. This is a wake-up call for enhanced regional research, pharmaceutical and manufacturing capacities,” said Dr Tax.
She said the region should take decisive actions on Covid-19 as most countries have not recovered from the impact of the virus. The Chronicle