Zimbabwe to begin COVID-19 vaccination next week: official

File Photo: A worker takes part in making surgical gowns used by COVID-19 frontline medical workers at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, Sept. 22, 2020. (Xinhua/Tafara Mugwara)

Zimbabwe is scheduled to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program next week after it receives the first batch of vaccines from China, Deputy Health Minister John Mangwiro said Friday.

The vaccination comes in phases, starting with frontline workers at high risk of infection, followed by those with chronic diseases, the elderly, and the prison population under phase one, said the official in a statement.

After the second phase involving lecturers, school staff members, and others at medium risk, Mangwiro added, those at relatively low risk will be inoculated under phase three.

The country intends to vaccinate all of its eligible population on a voluntary basis free of charge, the deputy minister said.

“The Government of Zimbabwe is now introducing COVID-19 vaccination in order to reduce mortality and morbidity due to COVID-19 disease,” Mangwiro said, adding that the vaccines, upon arrival in the country, will be immediately distributed to all provinces and districts.

The deputy minister assured that the country has adequate cold chain equipment to maintain the vaccines in their potent state up to the point of use and that the actual administration of the vaccines will be done by trained staff at fixed and outreach points.

Health workers, he said, will be on high alert to identify, report and manage any adverse events following immunization.

The Zimbabwean government was also in advanced negotiations to acquire Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Mangwiro said. “In addition, the country is also pursuing global and regional facilities to secure more vaccines to cover all eligible people.”

He urged all eligible people in the country to take up the vaccine, saying that even after vaccination, people should continue to practice all recommended COVID-19 prevention behaviors.

Zimbabwe has to date recorded 35,045 COVID-19 cases and 1,393 deaths.