By Mashudu Netsianda
The national Covid-19 mass vaccination programme has been rolled out in all correctional facilities across the country with at least 5 000 inmates having been vaccinated so far.
In Bulawayo, out of 3 641 inmates in four prisons, a total of 1 190 prisoners had been vaccinated by yesterday.
A total of 613 inmates got their first doses while 577 had their second jab. In Bulawayo, the exercise is largely targeting all adults above the age of 18.
In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) health services director Dr Evidence Gaka said although the vaccination for the inmates is not compulsory, they were happy with the uptake.
“We started vaccinating inmates in March when the Ministry of Health and Child Care shared with us the treatment protocols and the criteria on who is eligible for vaccination. We noted that the inmates are at high risk since they live in congregate circles and also within the same environment as the officers,” he said.
“This is an ongoing exercise and so far, we have vaccinated about 5 000 inmates in all our 46 facilities across the country and we are happy with the uptake. It, however, should be noted that while we are administering these vaccines to inmates, it is optional and those who don’t want are not forced.”
Dr Gaka said they have over 19 000 inmates in 46 facilities countrywide. He said in terms of Covid-19 infections among inmates, there are 326 active cases dotted across the country.
“We have 326 active cases among our inmates, but, however, we remain on high alert. Everyone is screened for Covid-19 on admission into our prisons including transfers, which for now are being discouraged in light of the surge in cases,” he said.
“Those who test positive are isolated until they fully recover and those are some of the infection and control measures that we have put in place.”
Dr Gaka said they have intensified campaigns to their inmates across the country.
“The major challenge that we have in prisons is the issue of practising social distancing and thus once you get a confirmed case in a cell, you are assured that a lot more will also test positive. We continue to conduct campaigns across the country as we share with inmates the benefits of getting the Covid-19 vaccination,” he said.
Last year in July, ZPCS officially launched its Covid-19 operational plan, which is aligned to the national health guidelines.
The plan offers an overall guidance on how to manage confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19 at the country’s prisons.
Zimbabwe’s free and voluntary vaccination programme aims to reach 10 million citizens to achieve herd immunity.
By Sunday, 29 344 people had received their first dose and 14 327 their second since the launch of the mass vaccination, giving a total of 955 656 and 619 883 people who had received the first and second jab, respectively.
Government is targeting to vaccinate one million citizens within the next two weeks of the extended level four national lockdown.
Zimbabwe has received rave reviews for its Covid-19 response and special praise from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the way it has confronted the global pandemic.
By Sunday, the country had recorded a total of 97 894 infections, 65 913 recoveries and 3 094 deaths which has prompted Government to embark on a massive Covid-19 vaccination drive which has now spread to various health centres in all districts.
As of July 25, 2021, a total of 1 447 342 people had received the first dose while 680 060 got the second jab.
Bulawayo province is targeting to inoculate 400 000 residents to achieve herd immunity. Due to serious manpower shortage, some people are being turned away after exceeding the daily limit.
As part of efforts to minimise the time spent in queues, Government is in the process of roping in extra personnel from security and defence forces to boost the numbers of personnel at vaccination centres.
The country recently received two million doses of Sinovac vaccines from China which saw Bulawayo and Harare receiving 100 000 doses each while eight other provinces got 50 000 doses each.
Addressing the nation recently, President Mnangagwa said about 80 percent of all new infections recorded in the country in the past few weeks are due to the Delta variant that originated in India. The Chronicle