Zimbabwe on Tuesday took delivery of 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China as it steps up its immunisation programme that began almost a month ago.
The doses of the Sinopharm vaccine that were delivered by an Air Zimbabwe chartered flight on Tuesday comprised of 200,000 doses donated by China and another 200,000 bought by Zimbabwe.
There was also a donation of 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China destined for Namibia on the same flight.
On February 18, Zimbabwe received its first consignment of 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who received the consignment at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, on Tuesday told journalists the Chinese donations were a testimony of the Asian economic powerhouse’s growing ties with Zimbabwe.
“The fact that we are the only country in Africa, which has to date received the second batch of the vaccine doses from China, attests to the strong, comprehensive and strategic nature of our partnership,” President Mnangagwa said.
“The event marks yet another milestone in the robust development and consolidation of our bilateral relations and cooperation in relation to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“China’s continued assistance and solidarity has lightened our burden in an otherwise difficult period.”
Zimbabwe says it is targeting to vaccinate 60 percent of the population or 10 million people by the end of next year to achieve herd immunity.
The immunisation programme, however, has started slowly with only 37,660 people having been vaccinated by March 15.
Observers say frontline workers, who are being targeted in the first phase of the vaccinations, were reluctant to take the jabs because there was still inadequate information about the safety and efficacy of the Chinese vaccine.
Last month, a group of human rights lawyers wrote to the Health ministry demanding that the Sinopharm vaccine should be first subjected to clinical trials before it is administered to locals.
Zimbabwean authorities, however, insist that the vaccine is safe.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles up as Health minister, was the first to take the Sinopharm vaccine in Zimbabwe as the government began to roll out the immunisation programme.
Zimbabwe is expecting a donation of 75,000 doses of China’s Covaxin vaccine and 20,000 of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. It has also registered China’s Inova vaccine.
The southern African country has witnessed a significant decline in new infections in the past month after a deadly second wave at the start of the new year.
As of March 15, Zimbabwe had recorded 36,504 Covid-19 cases with 949 active cases, 34,051 recoveries and 1,504 deaths.