Zimbabwe taps Russia for vaccines

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ZIMBABWE has begun talks with Russia on procedures of taking delivery of the Russian-made Sputnik Covid-19 vaccine, as authorities continue to explore options for inoculations to combat the pandemic.

This comes as the national Covid-19 taskforce coordinator, Dr Agnes Mahomva, said Government’s objective is to make the vaccine accessible to all citizens, although no one would be forced to take it.

Last week, peer-reviewed scientific data showed that the Russian vaccine is 92 percent efficient in protecting people from developing Covid-19 symptoms.

An official from the Russian Embassy, Ms Anastasia Samoylenko, told The Sunday Mail that talks between officials from Moscow and Harare have commenced.

“Negotiations are going on between our Government and the Government of Zimbabwe. We are working out on the modalities. At the moment, the Embassy does not have information on when the vaccines will come to Zimbabwe, or the quantities, but once that information is available, we will let you know,” she said.

Deputy Health and Child Care Minister Dr John Mangwiro said he could not give details as he was in a meeting.

“I am sorry I cannot give you the details right now as I am in a meeting,” he said.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Mr Donald Mujiri, said he was not in a position to comment on the matter.

Zimbabwe also expects to receive Covid-19 vaccines from China, the African Union as well as the United Kingdom.

Dr Mahomva said the vaccination process was part of measures to prevent a third wave of the global pandemic in the country, adding that authorities will apply all safety measures to guard against fake or substandard vaccines.

Monitoring and management of adverse vaccine side effects will be done by health workers administering the jabs in conjunction with MCAZ (Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe) and local scientists.

“Part of strengthening our response and indeed preventing a third wave include deployment of vaccines. Note, however, that vaccines are simply an additional prevention measure that is meant to complement existing preventive measures.

“Work in this area is at an advanced stage with a detailed strategic vaccine framework now in place. The framework covers 12 key strategic areas in line with WHO and AU or Africa CDC guidelines. Some of the key strategies include first careful review of the country context in which the vaccines are to be introduced.

‘‘Clarity on this is very important as this has big implications on how we manage all the vaccine deployment processes,” said Dr Mahomva.

She said no one will be forced to take the vaccine.

The roll-out of the vaccines will be done in phases, with the first phase covering frontline workers, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

She, however, indicated that there was need to scrupulously heed laid down health regulations to avoid the spread of the virus.

“Good progress has indeed been made, with some pledges and donations having already been made and received. So, as we work towards strengthening our Covid-19 response using existing strategies, lessons learnt or using new strategies such as the introduction of vaccines, let us remember that prevention is the best medicine.

‘‘There is no substitute for it, whether you receive a vaccine or not, it is important that you social distance, wash your hands with soap and running water, sanitise your hands and always wear a face mask properly,” said Dr Mahomva.