Zimbabwe on Monday took delivery of its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines from China with the vaccination of health workers set to begin immediately.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Health and Child Care minister, received the donation at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in the early hours of the morning. The vaccine came aboard a chartered Air Zimbabwe flight.
The 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were donated by China and Zimbabwe says it has bought 600,000 more doses that will be delivered by the first week of March.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said Zimbabwe had a target to buy at least 1.3 million doses from China in the short term.
“Zimbabwe’s approach is to save lives first, then save livelihoods,” Professor Ncube said.
Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said the southern African country was among the first countries in the world to receive the Sinopharm vaccine.
“You know we have a population of 1.4 billion in China and they also need to be vaccinated,” Ambassador Guo said.
“We are also facing enormous demand for the supply of vaccines in China, but Zimbabwe is our brother. So the assistance of vaccines and the supply of vaccines to Zimbabwe is not a problem.”
According to a schedule released by the Health and Child Care ministry, Zimbabwe will have three phases of inoculation with priority given to frontline workers and high-risk workers.
The second phase will see the vaccination of people with chronic illnesses, the elderly and prison populations as well as those confined to settlements such as refugee camps while the final phase “will target those at relatively low risk until everyone is covered.”
Zimbabwe says it is negotiating with various manufacturers of the Covid-19 vaccine, including Russia and India, as it seeks to immunise 60 percent of the population or 10 million people to achieve herd immunity.
After a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths at the beginning of this year amid fears the highly infectious South African variant circulating in the country, Zimbabwe has in recent weeks witnessed a steady decline in new infections.
On Sunday, the country recorded only 68 new cases from the 2,079 tests conducted, giving a positivity rate of 3.3 percent. This shows a drop in infections. At the peak of the second wave earlier in the year, the country was recording up to 1,000 new cases daily out of about 3,000 samples tested, with an average positivity rate of 30 percent.
As of February 14, Zimbabwe had recorded 35,172 coronavirus cases with 1,400 deaths and 30,601 recoveries.