BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
A TOP executive in the Health and Child Care ministry yesterday warned that a third wave of COVID-19 would hit the country soon if people are not urgently vaccinated against the virus.
As of yesterday morning, Zimbabwe had recorded 34 171 cumulative cases and 1 288 deaths, with a huge surge in both infections and deaths recorded in January following a lax in adherence to lockdown regulations during the festive season.
In extending the national lockdown on January 28, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga said: “Cumulative cases as at January 1, 2021 were 14 084, and deaths were 369. As at January 28, 2021, cumulative cases had reached 32 646, with deaths breaching the thousand mark to give us 1 160. The situation is clearly worrisome.”
Portia Manangazira, the director of epidemiology and disease control in the ministry, said Zimbabwe was at a high risk of being hit by a third wave if government delays rollout of the vaccine.
“If nothing significant is done, we will get a third wave,” she said.
Speaking during a COVID-19 vaccines informational webinar, Manangazira said it required more than the current measures such as social distancing and good hygiene to tame the killer virus.
“We need to bring up the population immunity through vaccination of a critical amount of the population. If we vaccinate say 80%, it means the remaining 20% is protected,” she said.
Her sentiments came at a time there was international debate on the efficacy of the current COVID-19 vaccination regime, with pessimists doubting the efficiency of the drugs on trial.
On the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines, Manangazira said Zimbabwe would initially receive doses from the Covax Facility.
“Under this facility, it is structured in such a way that the first 3% will be healthcare workers and then about 20% will be the vulnerable. The remaining will get it according to a prioritised strategy,” she said.
She said the African Union facility which was put together by philanthropists would take over from the 20%.
“The government has also put in place resources (US$100 million) and will approach some manufacturers (Russia and China) of COVID-19.”
She added that under the Chinese facility, Zimbabwe would be given
200 000 doses on condition that the country buys its vaccines from China.
“It is unlikely we will get a single type of vaccine, but maybe two or three,” she said.
Addressing concerns on likely side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, Manangazira said people were likely to react differently.
“Some people, obviously, overreact to any vaccines. But we will have a programme in place to monitor adverse reactions,” she said, adding that there would be rigorous training of health workers basing on what has already been experienced elsewhere.
Consultant paediatrician from the Health ministry, Nhamo Gonah, who is also the chairperson of the National Technical Advisory Committee (Nitac) said the key was the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.
Nitac was set up to provide evidence-based advice to the ministry.
- Follow Phyllis on Twitter @pmbanje