For a country in the throes of a coronavirus crisis, it is surprising how little Zimbabwe has not talked about procuring the COVID-19 vaccine which has dominated conversations as the world seeks a way out of the crisis.
As of Tuesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 11 522 confirmed cases under pressure from a second wave of infections.
In effect, the country is still under a relaxed lockdown underpinned by a 10pm-6am curfew. The economy is hamstrung by pandemic fatigue, economic constraints as law enforcement agents and public health officials struggle to control the surging pandemic.
Clearly, the country needs an urgent roadmap to deal with the crisis, but government has remained mum on how it is approaching the situation.
But still no mention of the COVID-19 vaccine, almost a month after several vaccines came on the market on the back of successful testing.
There are several vaccines on the market: Pfizer-BioNTech which has up to 95% effectiveness; Moderna (95%); Gamaleya (Sputnik V) (92%); Oxford UniastraZeneca (62-90%); CoronaVac (unknown).
Many African countries are scrambling to get the vaccine, with Nigeria working on the Covax programmes backed by the World Health Organisation hoping to receive the first doses in January next month.
There have been stories that Covex may not deliver after all or at least will take longer.
South Africa is already trialling four vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Johnson & Johnson was the first to apply for COVID-19 vaccine registration in that country.
Kenya has also joined other countries in the race to secure COVID-19 vaccines, and has ordered 24 million doses from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.
However, it appears Africa’s best hope for a vaccine is China, which is already supplying several countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia.
Why is Zimbabwe not taking action?
What challenges is government facing in procuring the vaccines?
Or is it a case of waiting to strike the best deal or how much certain individuals can rake in to line their pockets?
Throughout Africa and also in the West, COVID-19 has provided opportunities to steal public funds.
In Zimbabwe’s case, US$60 million for the procurement of COVID-19 consumables was not accounted for, in a case that led to the dismissal of former Health minister Obadiah Moyo.
Managing the coronavirus to enable the economy to recover or revert to a semblance of normalcy should be government’s priority, but it should be open and transparent about it.