Britain has praised Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 vaccination programme as one of the best in the region and has pledged to assist the country in improving access to information on the vaccines to counter vaccine hesitancy, a worldwide problem that has slowed vaccination uptake even when vaccines are readily available.
British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson yesterday said Zimbabwe’s vaccine roll-out has been one of the best in the region.
“I have been impressed with the work being done to counter vaccine hesitancy, a problem which affects many countries as well as Zimbabwe.
“I know for example that the UK has funded work among apostolic churches to get the appropriate messages across. Zimbabwean influencers have also done a great job — I recently saw a good video from MissRed,” she said.
Ambassador Robinson commended partners in the UN who, with funds from donors including the UK, had assisted in the smooth delivery of the vaccination campaign.
“I also congratulate the many hard-working Zimbabwean public health personnel who have made this happen on the ground — including the nurses on the frontline of administering the vaccines and those involved in delivering vaccine doses in strictly-controlled conditions around the country,” she added.
Zimbabwe began rolling out the vaccines across the country on February 22 and so far 3 371 867 people have received their first dose while 2 648 740 have been fully vaccinated.
According to statistics from the Africa Centres for Disease Control, Zimbabwe is among the top eight countries in Africa in terms of administering vaccine doses.
The country is using the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for the bulk of its vaccination programme although some donated Russian Sputnik V and the Indian Covaxin have also been used.
Most of the vaccines have been purchased through a US$100 million fund set aside by the Treasury to finance the fight against the pandemic although China helped kick-start the programme with a large donation.
After exhausting the initial fund, Treasury has increased the health sector funding to enable the country to continue buying more vaccines and around 12 million doses have been purchased so far.
Government also recently received a consignment of nearly 1 million doses through the COVAX facility.
The COVAX Facility is a global partnership comprising the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and WHO, established to facilitate equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries.
The Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility are mainly generous contributions from over 20 countries among them the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, European Union, Sweden, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.
Ambassador Robinson said the country was eligible to receive 3 million doses from the facility.
Zimbabwe set an original target of vaccinating 10 million people, about two thirds of the total population, to reach herd immunity although that target can be changed to fit circumstances and the latest professional advice.
Ambassador Robinson reiterated the need for more interventions to reach out to more people and improve uptake of vaccines.
“Zimbabwe has set an ambitious target for the number of vaccinations to be administered by year-end and this will require a significant amount of work and outreach to meet,” she said.
At least 20 million doses need to be administered for the 10 million person target to be attained.
Recently, the Government approved the vaccination of the 16-17 years age group, a development which experts say could boost vaccination figures.
Research is still ongoing for vaccination of the younger age groups.