Rumbidzayi Zinyuke and Precious Manomano
The national vaccination programme on Tuesday managed to give more than 100 000 jabs in a single day, showing the acceleration of the programme, but Zimbabweans need to grab the opportunities since those who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 could derail efforts to contain the pandemic, Government has said.
Zimbabwe is still battling new infections under the third wave, which while slowly receding with average infection rates around a quarter of those seen at the peak in mid-July are still 15 times as high as the rates seen between waves.
On Tuesday, after a record 104 974 jabs were given in just one day, resulting in 1 304 802 people then fully vaccinated while 2 145 537 had entered the programme with at least one jab. Out of that total 840 735 were still counting off the days for their second dose, but are willing participants.
This number of people with at least one jab is around 14,3 percent of the total population of around 15 million or almost 21,5 percent of the 10 million suggested as the minimum for herd immunity, although that target may be changed in light of the latest advice as it is approached. The number of fully vaccinated is still just 13 percent of the target and 8,7 percent of the total population.
Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, on Tuesday said more people needed to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as those who remain hesitant could disrupt the progress made so far.
“Unvaccinated people have higher chances of spreading the disease than those who have received the jab so we are worried that they might negatively affect the progress we have made in fighting the pandemic.
“Vaccination is the only option to contain the spread of Covid-19. Studies have shown that unvaccinated people have higher chances of having serious complications or deaths if attacked by the disease compared to vaccinated individuals,” he said.
A recent study by health officials revealed that almost 90 percent of people who succumbed to Covid-19 during the month of July were unvaccinated, underlining the importance of the ongoing mass vaccination exercise.
It showed that the unvaccinated also made up 90 percent of hospital admissions.
Global studies have shown that the delta variant, first detected in India, is now the most common strain and will need both developed and developing countries to strengthen their health systems and fast-track vaccine roll out.
While the vaccination teams have been able to handle over 90 000 people a day, at times they deal with little over half this number, suggesting that the existing vaccination web of sites is not fully used. But some are suggesting that more sites could easily be used, which would at least shorten queues and shorten distances people have to walk to drive to get to a vaccination point.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said there was need to designate more public institutions such as churches and other community facilities as vaccination centres to increase vaccine access and uptake.
“The general public are now willing to be vaccinated but are being curtailed by the lack of capacity to do so by the health sector that is overwhelmed by the high numbers of people willingly coming forward to take up the jab.
“There is need to increase health staff, especially in the metropolitan provinces to avoid the current situation where people are being turned away from the vaccination centres because of the high numbers.
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“This will help the country to move towards reaching the required herd immunity which is necessary to minimise loss of lives and reduce overwhelming our hospitals from the highly virulent Delta variant,” he said.
Secretary general of the Union for the Development of Apostolic and Zionists Churches in Zimbabwe and Africa, Reverend Edson Tsvakai, said while the reopening of churches was a welcome development, it posed a challenge for sects that shun vaccination programmes due to their religious beliefs.
“It is a good move to allow people to worship, but precaution should also be taken to ensure that the infectious disease does not spread to others, hence it is good to observe the laid down regulations to contain the spread of the virus.”