Zambia launches COVID-19 vaccine program

Multiple countries in Europe have suspended the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. /Joel Saget/AFP
Airport staff transport a consignment of COVID-19 vaccines at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, April 12, 2021. (Xinhua/Martin Mbangweta)

Zambia on Wednesday launched the COVID-19 vaccination program against the pandemic.

The national launch, which was held at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country’s highest referral hospital in the country’s capital Lusaka, was attended by officials from the health ministry, cooperating partners and private sector representatives.

The launch involves the first pillar of the program under the COVAX Facility consisting of 228,000 doses of AstraZeneca manufactured in India.

The first pillar will cover 20 percent or 3.6 million of the eligible over 18 years people and will target front-line health workers and other people at most risk. A total of 8.3 million people are targeted to be vaccinated.

Minister of Health Jonas Chanda said the launch of the program signifies the government’s commitment to the fight against the pandemic.

He said the launch signals the rollout of the program to all parts of the country with provincial launches expected in the coming days.

The Zambian minister, who was the first to get the vaccination, said the fierceness of the pandemic requires that it must be tackled with seriousness, adding that the vaccination program was a great stride to tackle the pandemic and protect citizens.

He reiterated that the vaccination program will be conducted in a cautious and phased manner on a voluntary basis and urged all eligible citizens to get vaccinated.

He further revealed that the country expects the second batch of the vaccines under the COVAX Facility next month and commended cooperating partners for financing the vaccine mechanism.

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio said the launch of the program was a momentous occasion and was a mark of the government’s commitment to fighting the pandemic.

She said she was impressed at the rate the Zambian government has managed to get the vaccine when other countries were still struggling and urged citizens to take the vaccine as it was safe and vital in fighting the pandemic.