SCORES of informal traders on Tuesday received their first dosage of the Sinopharm vaccine at various designated centres in Bulawayo.
The program, which targets 15 000 informal traders around the city will run for the next ten days.
Designated vaccination centres are the Large City Hall, Makokoba Bus Terminus (Renkini) and Sokusile in Nkulumane.
This initiative comes at a time when Covid-19 cases in the country are escalating, a development that led to the government imposing a level 4 lockdown.
To date, the country has recorded 56 014 positive cases and 1911 deaths. 797 715 people have so far received their first dose while 571 721 have received their second.
CITE visited the vaccination centres and most of the informal traders who were interviewed expressed gratitude for the exercise.
Sicelo Dube, a vendor who got her vaccine at the City Hall said the initiative comes at an opportune time when cases keep rising and getting the vaccine now will protect her from contracting the virus.
“Getting vaccinated will protect me as I go about my business. That way I also know that chances of contracting the virus and putting my family’s health at risk are low.”
Melusi Mbambo, another vendor said the program is efficient considering the long queues at some government centres.
“Last week I went to UBH to get my vaccine but couldn’t because of the queues. They told me that I had to first get my name recorded then come back the following day. As a self-employed person I couldn’t risk losing so much time away from my business,” he said.
Traders at Renkini told this publication that they were grateful that they could get vaccinated at their area of operation.
Several police officers were deployed at this centre to ensure that order was maintained as the vaccination process took place.
However, when CITE got to Sokusile in Nkulumane around 10 AM, the traders were still waiting for the vaccinating team to arrive.
Memory Ngangara told the news crew that she had arrived at the centre at 6 AM because they had been told vaccination would start at 8 AM.
“There are many of us here at Sokusile only, imagine others coming from Nketa, Emganwini and other nearby places. I had to be early enough to get a spot at the front. There are some who beat me to it but at least I’m not too far behind,” she said.
“It’s only disappointing that they have not yet arrived because they told us they would be here at 8AM. We just hope they will be here early enough.”
Micheal Ndiweni, director of Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) in an interview said they were happy with the response from the traders.
Ndiweni highlighted that there are some issues that need to be addressed to ensure that all informal traders benefit from this program.
“We realised that vending licenses are a pe-requisite but we realise that there are some who are trading under other people. There are those who are employed and some who are renting places at privately owned properties. They do not have their licenses readily available so some were turned away. Authorities need to make provisions for these people because everyone deserves to be vaccinated,” said Ndiweni.
“We are quite happy as representatives of informal traders about this initiative. We advocated for prioritisation seeing that informal traders constitute the bulk of the economy. BVTA only has about 6 000 members and there are other members from other organisations. We are confident that the 15 000 allocated doses will cover most of the people.”