Britain has offered to vaccinate 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s population, the most vulnerable 3 million people, against Covid-19 when the British vaccine is ready and Government will be mobilising resources to cover those not vaccinated by development partners.
UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson made the commitment when she paid a courtesy call on Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga yesterday morning.
The UK is clear it wants to scale up cooperation with Zimbabwe ahead of its official exit from the European Union EU) and Ambassador Robinson said they were encouraged by President Mnangagwa’s commitment to walk the reform agenda.
“We discussed Covid-19 and particularly vaccines. The UK has been a leading country in the world putting the Covax together. We have put over $700 million into making sure that the lower middle income countries can vaccinate their most vulnerable populations.
“We discussed how Zimbabwe can benefit from this so that the most vulnerable 20 percent can be vaccinated and we discussed how important it is that these vaccines are targeted to people that need them most,” she said.
Ambassador Robinson said Zimbabwe was on track to become one of the countries that would benefit from the vaccine. She said distribution would start when the right immunity against Covid-19 is available.
The UK said it was encouraged by the country’s reform agenda.
The notable ones are the repealing of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act, and the licensing of six new independent television stations.
“We talked about our relationship, and I talked about how important it was for the United Kingdom when President Mnangagwa made his commitment to significant economic and political reforms and to uphold the human rights that are in the Constitution.
On the expected vaccine, VP Chiwenga said priority would be given to frontline workers and the most vulnerable who include the elderly.
VP Chiwenga said they also discussed the cordial relations between the two countries.
“In our case, the priority is on frontline workers and critical groups like the elderly, and we still have to look at the bulk of our population.
“Once we have accepted the 20 percent which is being offered, we also look at our own resources to ensure the rest of the population are covered,” said VP Chiwenga.
He said they also talked about the restructuring exercise of the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as the important support the health sector is getting from development partners.
British hospitals have started giving people the first doses, with the National Health Service (NHS) saying the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is safe and effective and gives protection against Covid-19.
The vaccine is said to have mild side effects which should not last longer than a week and be suppressed by painkillers such as paracetamol.
The NHS says the side effects include a sore arm where the needle went in, feeling tired, a headache and aches.
Later in the day while officiating at another function in Harare which was attended by World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representatives among other dignitaries, VP Chiwenga allayed fears the country will only administer a verified vaccine.
“Zimbabwe is keenly following research and development of vaccines in an effort to find long-term solutions to combat Covid 19.
His Ministry is aware of the uncertainties surrounding the vaccines, which were followed by reports in the few countries that have accessed the COVAX vaccine.
“Our team of experts, drawn from the Epidemiology Directorate, Immunisation Programme, with support from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group and the Medicines Control Authority have been keenly following the developments.
“A readiness assessment was conducted to ensure that only approved vaccines without side-effects will be administered to our citizens,” assured VP Chiwenga.