Covid-19 vaccination at record high as schoolkids targeted in new drive

HARARE – A Covid-19 vaccination drive in Zimbabwe targeting children aged 12 and above has sent vaccination figures soaring to new highs.

Mobile teams of health workers have deployed across the country to administer the vaccines, breathing life to a vaccination campaign that was faltering.

On March 18, just 3,580 people volunteered for the first jab of the two-dose vaccines being used in Zimbabwe. Fast forward a few days later, on March 24, and that number had shot up to 115,008 after the new vaccination campaign was launched.

The campaign has lifted the number of people who have taken at least one dose to 44 percent, still short of the government’s missed target to vaccinate 60 percent of the population by Christmas last year, but a step – the officials say – to achieving herd immunity where the country has enough immune individuals to stop transmission.

Many parents say they support the vaccination drive to prevent schools from becoming centres of infection, although others remain sceptical.

“Let them get vaccinated, it will save us a lot of trouble. Maybe it will stop the constant closures of schools … the online lessons drain us each time the schools are closed,” said Helen Dube, a parent walking her 12-year-old daughter to a school in the crowded Chitungwiza town, about 30km southeast of the capital, Harare.

“Plus, if schools are safe then we are also safe at home,” she said, referring to instances when schools have become centres of virus infection.

Zimbabwe is gradually returning to its normal school calendar after two years of intermittent and sometimes prolonged closures due to waves of Covid-19 cases.

Adults are also being targeted in the vaccination campaign which will run until mid-May, according to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the country’s health minister.

Some 5,438 people have died of Covid-19 since March 2020 and 245,820 others have been infected with the virus, according to government figures. The figures could be much higher, though.

Zimbabwe was one of the first African countries to give shots of Covid-19 vaccines, achieving higher rates than much of the continent.

About 4.9 million of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people have received one jab, mostly of the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. The government says it has enough vaccine doses, including for booster jabs, but uptake has slowed in recent months as the number of cases and fatalities have slowed.

Just over eight million doses have been used out of more than 22 million in stock, according to government figures.

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