Zimbabwe Shifts Gear in Vaccination Roll-out

18 JUL, 2021 - 00:07 

Harmony Agere for the Sunday Mail

Zimbabwe’s coronavirus vaccination programme is turning out to be one of the best in Africa.

By Friday, 1 096 002 people had received their first jab, while 635 738 had been fully vaccinated.

As of July 10, 2021, Seychelles was the African country with the highest coronavirus vaccination rate as 142 doses were administered per 100 individuals.

Zimbabwe ranked 10th at 9,85 doses per 100 people.

This vaccination rate, however, has markedly improved in the past two weeks, as the roll-out programme has been ramped up.

On Friday alone, a record 59 750 people were vaccinated.

Buoyed by 2,5 million vaccines which arrived in the country from China in the last three weeks and 3,5 million more expected by the month-end, President Mnangagwa last week announced that the Government intends to vaccinate a million people in the next fortnight.

A snap survey carried out by The Sunday Mail in Harare showed that a number of vaccination centres now have both doses and most are clearing queues by lunchtime, putting the Government’s target within reach.

Visits to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, Kambuzuma Polyclinic, Kuwadzana Polyclinic and Kuwadzana Satellite Clinic showed that demand for vaccines is being met with equal commitment by healthcare workers.

Official statistics show that an average 33 000 people per day were vaccinated against Covid-19 in the last seven days, with the trend showing an upward trajectory with each passing day.

At Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, there are now two vaccination centres catering for first and second doses respectively.

When The Sunday Mail crew arrived just before lunchtime on Wednesday, the queue for those taking the second dose had been cleared, while there was a relatively short queue for those that were taking the first dose.

“I came here a few weeks ago, but I gave up because there was chaos, with some people demanding cash if you wanted to be served on time,” said Mr Laston Mugomba from Avondale.

“But today it was different. I came here early and they took a bit of time to start serving, but once they started, the process was quick.

“It took me about 45 minutes and I think that was fast considering that when I arrived, the queue had already grown long.

“I encourage people to get vaccinated because this is life-saving. If you still need a lot of convincing to get vaccinated, then you are not taking very good care of your health.”

The situation was almost the same at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, where both queues for the first and second dose had been cleared by lunchtime.

Members of staff, who declined to be named as they are not authorised to talk to the press, said there was an exponential growth in the number of people who were getting vaccinated.

“The demand, particularly for the first dose, has increased dramatically and it’s good that we have the doses.

“We encourage people to come and get vaccinated because this is a sure way of reducing the spread of the disease.”

At Kambuzuma Polyclinic, there were short queues.

However, some people alleged they had been turned away.

“I arrived around 11am and I was turned away. They said they had taken in enough people and I should come back tomorrow,” said one Kambuzuma resident, Ms Alice Murape.

“I heard they are taking only 200 people, so tomorrow I will come early.”

But nurses at the clinic said the roll-out was going on smoothly and no one was being turned away.

“So far, we have served over 160 people and we hope to clear everyone before we close for the day,” she said.

“There are claims that we are turning people away and we are only taking a certain number of people per day, that’s not true.

“It should be understood that currently we have a short working day and our numbers should be consistent with the Level Four lockdown measures.

“Sometimes we would have finished our allocation, hence we will be waiting for another delivery.”

There, however, have been complaints of verbal abuse by nursing staff at the polyclinic.

While both doses were available, people were not pleased by the slow pace.

“A riot nearly broke out here the other day because it appears the staff is showing favouritism or they are being paid to serve certain people first,” said one Kuwadzana resident.

“The nurses are so rude, they don’t communicate and they are talking to the elderly as if they are talking to children.”

At Kuwadzana Satellite Clinic, the queues were moving smoothly, with a few people complaining that the second jab was not always available.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has since issued a directive that all people who visit vaccination centres before 5pm should be served.

In a circular to all Provincial Medical Directors and central hospitals’ chief executives, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Jasper Chimedza said undocumented citizens can also be vaccinated if they produce letters from their community leaders.

“All people in a queue for vaccination before 5pm shall be vaccinated on the same day,” he said.

“All those who present themselves for vaccination without national identification cards or passport shall be vaccinated upon producing a letter from the headman, local councillor or Member of Parliament confirming them as an ordinary citizen in the area.”

Harare City Council director for health services Dr Prosper Chonzi said the local authority has so far been allocated 100 000 doses.

“There are no limits to the number of people who can be served per day,  but the challenge we are having is the shortage of staff,” he said.

“So the minimum target we have set for each clinic is 100 people per day. Considering that we have many clinics, the number is quite reasonable. But that does not mean that people should be turned away, especially if it is still within working hours and the vaccines are available.

“We have also entered into partnerships with private players to help us with the vaccination free of charge.”

Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said the Government was aware of the increasing demand for vaccines and will soon be beefing up staff to ensure that people can be served quicker.

“We are adding manpower so that members of staff don’t get overwhelmed and we don’t want people to spend a lot of time in queues.

“But we always encourage that people should come in their numbers to get vaccinated,” he said.

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