HomeOpinion & AnalysisEngage more Zimbos to fight COVID-19

Engage more Zimbos to fight COVID-19

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LIKE the rest of Africa, Zimbabwe is in the throes of the pandemic, and is experiencing a surge in both infections and deaths.

As most African countries, including Zimbabwe, ready themselves to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination and aiming for herd immunity, plans and strategies of individual nations are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The COVID-19 vaccination roll-out will easily be the largest immunisation drive in Africa’s history and will require all hands on deck.

Countries like South Africa have already shared their roll-out strategies and are aiming to reach two-thirds of the population by February end.

Morocco became the first African country to kickstart mass immunisation of its citizens against COVID-19 with the inoculation of King Mohammed VI yesterday.

The South African government, the country will receive one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this month followed by another 500 000 the following month from the Serum Institute of India, while pursuing direct deals with manufacturers for more supplies.

According to government, vaccines via the Covax facility — a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need — are expected by the beginning of the second quarter of 2021.

Co-ordination of the process rests with the national health department with the support of provincial health departments and the private healthcare sector.

While countries in the other parts of Africa are struggling, those across the Middle East and North Africa are adopting a range of strategies to support vaccine rollout plans.

These include brokering advance purchase agreements (APAs) direct with international pharmaceutical companies.

The countries are also taking advantage of their relations with vaccine suppliers and are actively involved in global vaccination development initiatives.

Of note is the ground work on setting up local vaccine production and distribution hubs.

Countries like Egypt have announced major deals to secure vaccines from the US-German alliance Pfizer-BioNTech, the UK-based alliance Oxford University-AstraZeneca, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (responsible for marketing the Sputnik V vaccine) and the Chinese company Sinopharm.

Turkey too has announced large APAs with Pfizer-BioNTech and the Chinese company Sinovac. Israel, Qatar and Kuwait have declared APAs for a much smaller number of doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and two United States-based companies.

For Zimbabwe, the challenge is for information to be less opaque. It is clear that so far government does not have a strategy or is struggling to come up with a coherent plan. There appears to be desperation to come up with one. That is why any talk about a vaccine is couched in the words “soon”.

The anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, appears to have been a God-sent solution to this government inertia which has ordered mass importation of the veterinary remedy. But it is not enough and the state needs to do more.

There are enough Zimbabweans with goodwill to fight for their country, if only the government will engage with them.

Econet founder and chairman Strive Masiyiwa is the leading African Union special envoy on the COVID-19 crisis and yesterday announced that Africa will get more than one billion doses of vaccines by December 2021.

He said international donors had already pledged 700 million free doses this year, under the Covax global initiative, enough to vaccinate at least  324 million out of 1,2 billion people of the African population.

Masiyiwa and other well-meaning Zimbabweans should also be leading Team Zimbabwe’s fight against this common enemy, rather than have our leadership look so clueless.

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