Healthcare workers led by the health minister received the first shots as Zimbabwe kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Thursday.
The 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China are being used in the first phase of the campaign, which is mainly targeting people over 60, frontline government workers, and vulnerable groups.
The first phase is also being viewed as a test run to determine whether the Sinopharm jab is effective against the coronavirus variant that has spread to Zimbabwe since first being detected in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s health minister and vice president, was the first person to receive the jab, setting the ball rolling for the southern African nation’s program to vaccinate approximately 60% of its population.
According to the Health Ministry’s vaccination plan, Zimbabwe’s eventual aim is to inoculate 10 million of its approximately 15 million people.
“A total of 22% of the population will be vaccinated during the first phase. In the second phase, 18.4% people will be targeted, while 18.4% will be vaccinated in the third phase, thus achieving the target of vaccinating nearly 60% of the entire population,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a news conference Tuesday.
She also confirmed that there is “now a 61% dominance of the new South African variant” in the country.
Zimbabwe has purchased some 800,000 more vaccine doses that are due to arrive next month.
As of Thursday, Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 case tally stands at over 35,000, including at least 1,400 deaths and more than 31,000 recoveries.