Covid-19 vaccination campaign kicks off in Bulawayo

The roll-out of the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine has begun in  Bulawayo, with health officials urging residents to take up the vaccine as it was safe.

This comes after concerns that the government was rolling out the Sinopharm vaccine without local clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

But United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Acting Chief Executive Officer – Dr Narcisius Dzvanga, said the vaccination will assist in protecting citizens from the pandemic.

“Let’s speak the same language and positively promote the vaccination. It may not be 100 percent but let’s speak with one voice -of authority and of responsibility so we move forward with this. This vaccination is what God has given so far to protect the public,” he said at the launch of the vaccination campaign held at UBH on Monday.

Zimbabwe received 200 000 shots of the Sinopharm double dose vaccine last week from China and 600 000 doses are expected to arrive in the country in March.

Chairperson of the Health Service Board, Dr Paulinus Sikhosana, was the first person to be vaccinated in Bulawayo, followed by Dr Dzvanga.

Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director -Dr Welcome Mlilo was vaccinated third, followed by Ekusileni Medical Centre – Acting CEO Dr Absolom Dube then UBH Principal Nursing Officer, Clara Chivonivoni.

United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Acting Chief Executive Officer – Dr Narcisius Dzvanga

The vaccination process takes a few minutes, starting with the screening stage, vaccination and monitoring.  

Labels on the Sinopharm vaccines showed that the vaccine was manufactured on December 31, 2020, and will expire in on December 30, 2022.

The vaccines must be stored at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Officiating at the vaccination campaign, Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Judith Ncube, described the occasion as momentous, which will usher in a new phase in the fight against Covid-19.

“Our health experts state in order for us to reach and achieve herd immunity, as a country we need to vaccinate an estimated 60 percent. This is no mean feat, it is a challenge we must meet. The government moved swiftly to roll out this vaccination and will occur in three phases. Each phase targeting specific groups within the population,” she said

The first phase aims to vaccinate 22 percent of the population who are at the greatest risk.

These are health workers in the public and private sector, port of entry officials, personnel from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), immigration, customs and health security officials.

Stage two of Phase One will also target community health workers, the elderly, those with chronic diseases and prison populace.

Phase Two is targeting 18.4 percent of the citizens, who are at medium risk of Covid-19, these are staff at learning institutions such as lecturers and teachers.

Phase Three is also targeting to vaccinate 18.4 percent of the population and these are people with the least risk.

“I want to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions, the vaccine has undergone the scrutiny of both international and local regulators such as the Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe. This vaccine is safe and no shortcuts was taken,” said Ncube.

“Every vaccine candidate had to go through the strict process of clinical trials and safety reviews by respective global and national stringent regulatory authorities.”

Bulawayo’s provincial minister said none of the current pre-authorised Covid-19 vaccines contained the live virus, therefore one cannot be infected after vaccination.

“You might experience a mild flu and symptoms after the injection, such as fatigue, body aches and fever. It is a normal reaction of your immune system to the vaccine and generally will stop after a day or two. This vaccine is the key to unlock the door out of this crisis and we will continue working  day and night to make sure these vaccines are brought to our citizens,” Ncube said.

“I  commend our President Emmerson Mnangagwa for this personal commitment to this cause. Our vaccines are effective, (although ) they do not stop every case of Covid-19 infection and transmission therefore, we must remain cautious and continue wearing masks practice social distancing and enhance hygiene routine.”

The vaccination programme was attended by various health personnel and representatives from Bulawayo City Council led by Director of Health Services Department, Dr Edwin Sibanda and other health officials.

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