The national Covid-19 vaccination programme started in all 62 districts yesterday with frontline health workers and other key personnel at high risk of infection getting their first jab.
Government is targeting to vaccinate at least 10 million people against Covid-19 as part of efforts to combat the deadly virus which has killed 1 440 and affected 35 824 people in the country in the past 11 months.
The first groups being vaccinated are the frontline staff who have to deal with, treat or care for infected people, with the elderly and those with chronic complaints, the two groups most at risk of dying if infected, being vaccinated as soon as possible afterwards.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Jasper Chimedza said the nationwide programme started using the 200 000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
All districts were expected to have vaccinated the frontline staff within 10 days with those vaccinated needing a second dose after four weeks to be regarded as fully immunised.
We have started the vaccination programme in all the districts and we expect to protect all our frontline workers first. The exercise remains voluntary and will be administered to those willing, said Dr Chimedza.
At Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, among the first to get jabs were Dr Asaph Ziruma, Dr Tafadzwa Tsikira and Dr Munyaradzi Katiro.
More than 3 000 frontline workers at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospital are expecting to receive the Covid-19 Sinopharm vaccine over the next 10 days.
Acting clinical director for Parirenyatwa Hospital Dr Tsitsi Magure said senior doctors chose to get vaccinated to encourage other health workers to take up the jab.
Dr Tsikira commended the Government for sourcing the Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 from China.
“I am glad that we have something and that our Government made an effort to access the vaccine. Everybody is here to access the vaccine, which is a good development,’’ he said.
Health and Child Care Minister Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was the first person to be vaccinated at the programme opening in Harare on Thursday last week.
The Herald tracked the immunisation exercise as far as Gokwe North, a district which is difficult to access because of poor road infrastructure. Gokwe North has recorded 59 cases with 36 being health workers, 28 of them staff members at Nembudziya District Hospital.
The vaccines’ arrival will mean health staff can help others more safely.
At first there was scepticism but confidence grew among health workers here as the day progressed with most of the staff excited to take their life-saving shots. Some patients were inquiring about the vaccines and willing to be inoculated.
Microscopist Mr Tamuka Shoko took the first shot administered by district nursing officer Ms Caritas Mbombe. After getting his shot Mr Shoko said: “I am happy to be vaccinated as it boosts my immunity against the virus. I tested positive before and I believe with this vaccine, my chances to fight the virus are boosted.”
At Mtora Mission Hospital in the same Nembudziya District, frontline workers were being imnunised with Sister Vimbai Mahlatini taking the first shot administered by Sister Nyarai Matope. Sister Mhlatini said: “I believe it will protect me. I have not tested positive before and If I continue taking other preventative measures like sanitasation, masking and social distancing, I will be safe from the virus.”
Gokwe North district medical director Dr Gladys Gombakomba said the vaccine doses arrived on Sunday and kept in strict adherence to manufacturer specifications.
She has two teams trained to administer the shots which would move around the district to inoculate frontline workers. “We have two teams vaccinating the whole district. They completed their training last week and we expect to complete the exercise within 10 days,” said Dr Gombakomba.
The district has a catchment area of 263 130 people and Nembudziya Hospital has a catchment area of 9 327 but since it is a referral hospital its capacity has to be ready for cases arising from the whole district.
Mtora Mission Hospital, a facility owned by the Catholic Church, also had its staff inoculated yesterday.
Sister-in-charge Yulianah Ndabambi said they had three staff members who tested positive and recovered.
“I think everybody should be vaccinated to be protected from this virus especially health workers because they are at the biggest risk. Others also need to be vaccinated and we hope there will be enough vaccines to protect everyone. My plea again is that we get more staff here to boost capacities of attending to cases,” she said.
In Masvingo, the vaccination started with frontline health workers with 14 teams spearheading the exercise across the province’s seven administrative districts.
Inoculation in Masvingo district started around 11am at Masvingo Provincial Hospital and Makurira Memorial Clinic. Nurses, doctors and other health workers queued at the two institutions to be inoculated.
An estimated 3 000 health personnel in the province are expected to be vaccinated before other frontline workers were inoculated.
Masvingo provincial Covid-19 taskforce spokesperson Mr Rodgers Irimai said journalists would be inoculated today. The province received 22 000 jabs of Covid-19 last Friday which were distributed to the seven districts.
In Matabeleland South, vaccination started at all the selected centres in the seven administrative districts. The province has so far received 11 000 doses.
Beitbridge district medical officer, Dr Lenos Samhere said they started by vaccinating health service providers and frontline workers in the rural parts of the district.
“The programme started off well. We received doses to cover for 1 402 people and we are starting with those in the furthest parts of the district. This is done to make sure we reach out to this group while the major roads are still accessible,” said Dr Samhere.
At least 28 000 frontline workers in Manicaland will receive vaccination in the first stage of the roll out which began yesterday across all seven districts.
All health care workers, members of the uniformed forces, workers at Forbes border post and journalists will be part of those receiving the shot in the next 10 days.
Speaking at the launch of the vaccination roll-out at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital, provincial medical director Dr Simon Nyadundu said all district hospital staff would be inoculated first before teams moved to other local health institutions to avoid congesting one institution.
“For today, most of our teams are operating at the bigger hospitals in the districts then from there, we move on to the local facilities. Our teams will be visiting facilities and carrying out the vaccinations so that we do not disrupt day to day services by moving workers to one site. We should be done with the first round in the next 10 days,” he said.
In Midlands, Gweru City Council health worker, Sister Theresa Chete, who survived Covid-19, was the first to take the jab while several other health practitioners eagerly followed her.
“I know what it means to be a Covid-19 patient through my previous experience. Though I was asymptomatic, I suffered stigma particularly at the workplace and when the chance to get the vaccine came, I had no option but to take it up since I work with patients everyday of my life,” she said.
Midlands Province received a total of 13 800 doses of the vaccine which will first be administered to frontline health workers with the rest of the people in the province expected to get their doses as the country gets more medicine.
Mashonaland East health workers and uniformed forces received their first jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine yesterday. Provincial medical director Dr Paul Matsvimbo said the province was targeting 10 500 frontline workers in the vaccination programme.
Health workers and uniformed forces are on the frontline and risk being exposed to people with Covid-19 each day. Protecting themselves also helps to protect patients and their families especially those who may be at higher risk for severe illness, he said
Dr Matsvimbo said 213 centres were set up in the province for the vaccination programme.
The Herald also tracked some recipients of the vaccines on Thursday who all had positive feedback.
I have not had any side effects. My appetite is good. I am still doing my daily 13km jogging and not feeling anything out of the ordinary, said Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme.
I am not feeling anything unusual, everything is just normal, said ZBC TV’s Abigail Tembo.