Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa received his first shot of the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday as the southern African country tries to encourage its people to accept the vaccines.
President Mnangagwa got the jab in Victoria Falls, a tourism hub on the border with Zambia, where he also launched the second phase of the country’s Covid-19 immunisation drive.
His injection was broadcast live on national television and was witnessed by leaders of political parties.
“Let me reiterate the global call by the World Health Organization that ‘no one is safe, until everyone is safe’…I, therefore, challenge all of us in our respective communities to accept the vaccination programme and to shun vaccination hesitancy, misinformation and the negative conspiracy theories,” President Mnangagwa said.
“Getting vaccinated is a personal and family responsibility as well as a national obligation.”
The government says it wants to vaccinate Victoria Falls' entire population in the next 28 days to promote the revival of the tourism industry that has been severely crippled by prolonged lockdowns.
Zimbabwe bought 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China earlier this month. It has also received a donation of 400,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, also from China.
The first phase of the country’s vaccination programme began on February 18 targeting frontline workers such as healthcare personnel, border officials and security forces.
Only 44,135 people had received their first jab by March 23, leading to fears that Zimbabweans were reluctant to receive the Chinese vaccines.
Zimbabwe’s second phase of Covid-19 vaccination programme is targeting school teachers, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and religious leaders.
The vaccines that have been approved for use so far in Zimbabwe are the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China, Russia’s Sputnik-V and India’s Covaxin, but only the Chinese vaccines have been delivered.
Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate 60 percent of its population or 10 million people in an effort to achieve herd immunity and stop the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.
The country has started re-opening its economy after the number of new infections declined significantly following a deadly second wave of Covid-19 soon after the festive season.
As of March 23, Zimbabwe had recorded 36,717 Covid-19 cases, including 1,516 deaths and 34,447 recoveries.