Zimbabwe says Covid-19 jab will be voluntary as infections soar

Zimbabwe says Covid-19 jab will be voluntary as infections soar

Zimbabwe announced on Friday that taking a Covid-19 vaccine will be voluntary for its citizens as authorities ponder inoculation logistics following reports that the country will receive three million doses from an African Union (AU) allocation.

The statement by health minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, came after the AU chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the continent had secured a provisional 270 million doses for member states to supplement the Covax program.

The vaccines, sourced by the AU’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Force, will be supplied by Pfizer and AstraZeneca through the Serum Institute of India, and Johnson & Johnson, Ramaphosa said.

State media reported this week that Zimbabwe’s allocation will come with a US$25 million price tag and that it will cover 15 percent of the country’s population.

“I am also aware that some of our citizens are anxious to get vaccinated. The government is following the development and dissemination of Covid-19 vaccines by other states, with keen interest,” Chiwenga said in a statement.

“As soon as all technical and administrative obligations are met, Zimbabweans can expect to be vaccinated. The vaccination is going to be voluntary.”

Chiwenga sought to allay concerns about the jabs’ safety saying government was “doing everything possible to ensure that our citizens are safe from possible side effects of some Covid-19 vaccines, currently on the shelf.”

The minister’s announcement came as Zimbabwe reported 741 new coronavirus infections and 30 deaths on Friday, bringing the country’s caseload to 26,109. Deaths also quickened to 666.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a surge in both infections and deaths, with health experts also expressing concern about a poor rate of recovery.

Among those who have succumbed to the respiratory illness since its outset last year are two government bureaucrats; Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri and Manicaland provincial affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba who died on Friday.

Many African countries are in the throes of the pandemic, which has infected at least 3.1 million people and killed 74,600 others on the vast continent. – ZimLive