Zimbabwe, which has accelerated testing of Covid-19 around the country, has the capacity to acquire vaccines for the novel virus that has been spiking in the country since the start of the year, a top Government official has said.
This comes as the Government has assured the nation that no one will be left behind once the country procures vaccines against the virus, with a technical team being assembled to identify the jabs options from the United States, Russia, China and India.
President Mnangagwa last weekend assured the country that no resource will be spared as the country intensifies efforts to procure the vaccine, which would have been recommended by experts to be safe for inoculation among Zimbabweans.
The country has a population of around 15 million and to achieve herd immunity, which can be achieved when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, providing indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease, at least 10 million Zimbabweans should be vaccinated.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, who is also the Government spokesperson, said the Covid-19 vaccine was five times cheaper than the PCR tests kits that had since been distributed nationwide.
“If we have the money for PCR tests which we have rolled out across the country, we surely can afford vaccines,” he said. “Think of it, the vaccine is at least five times cheaper than a PCR test. So it’s much cheaper for us to mass inoculate than to mass test. We are just waiting on science.
“The decision on what vaccine is going to be used in Zimbabwe lies with the Government. The responsibility to immunise the populace also rests with the Government. The notion that we have no vaccines in the country yet because the Government has no money is also misplaced.
“Vaccines cost between US$3-9, which gives an average of US$6. A PCR test costs about US$25. It means if we vaccinate the whole population and forgo testing we will save a lot of money than try to test everyone. It also means that immunising all the eligible people makes us attain herd immunity very quickly which allows us to open the economy to full throttle.”
Mr Mangwana said the use of vaccines would bring immeasurable economic and social benefits.
“So, in short Government has a number of motivating factors which pushes for us to start Covid-19 immunisation,” he said. “But we have to do this as safely as possible. This is why our mantra has been that the decision on which vaccine to use will be science led by our own Zimbabwean scientists.
“Thus, they have to consider our social and even ethnic context. Once they have made informed recommendations then the Government will make the procurement decision.”
Mr Mangwana dismissed claims by an MDC-Alliance official Dr Ruth Labode that Zimbabwe received money from the Global Fund, but is sitting on the funds.
In actual fact, the country does not receive any cash from the global health institution.
“Her position is erroneous, possibly misadvised,” said Mr Mangwana. “Yes, Zimbabwe was allocated a $45m grant. But the money is not given as cash. Procurement is done in Geneva and in tranches. So far we were given PPEs and some incomplete PCR kits. Most are still there. What corruption?
“We don’t buy them. They are just supplied to us in lieu of the money. That’s why I said procurement is done in Geneva. In this case the missing parts were tubes. We have flagged it with them and they are coming in February.”
By Wednesday night, the total number of deaths had reached 1 122, but almost two thirds were in the second wave with less than 400 in total in the 10 months, prior to the second wave.
The 30-day lockdown, that was imposed to mitigate the spread of the virulent virus, was extended by two weeks yesterday.