The 2 millionth Covid-19 vaccine dose was jabbed into an arm on Thursday afternoon as Zimbabwe’s national vaccination programme accelerated even further and once the extra doses yesterday were counted the totals were 1 400 905 first doses and 671 155 for a total of 2 071 769 by last night.
That total is just over 10 percent of the planned 20 million doses needed to vaccinate a minimum of 10 million people for herd immunity.
The vaccination programme was able to accelerate after 2,5 million doses arrived in two batches from near the end of last month, with another million doses expected early tomorrow afternoon.
In the seven days between Friday last week and Thursday this week the vaccination teams managed to jab 349 948 arms, just short of 50 000 a day, with Sunday, as usual, being the slackest day since many vaccination centres are closed on that day.
At the same time there are indications that the enhanced Level Four lockdown may be starting to tame the third wave of infection although we are far from seeing the wave recede. While the number of sick people continues rising, and the average daily death rate was still rising this week, with 91 recorded yesterday, the average number of new infections seems to have reached a plateau late last week and may now be very slowly drifting down.
The numbers of active cases and death rates continue rising after daily new infections plateau because it takes two weeks or more to be clear of infection and people who die today may have been infected a week ago. So there are time lags for those statistics. But a plateau, or even a fall, in daily new infections is the first sign that the wave is starting to peak.
But the plateau in daily new infections was more than 60 times as many daily infections as what we were seeing at the start of the second week of last month, when the third wave started emerging and could so easily vanish in a renewed surge of new daily infections if Zimbabweans relax for a minute.
The most worrying present trend is in Harare Metropolitan, the most populous province and now easily the one recording the most new daily infections So if we are reaching the top of the wave it does not mean we are in the clear and can relax a bit. What it does mean is that things are still very bad but may have stopped getting worse.
Other countries have seen premature relaxation, official or through complacency, and then suffered the inevitable resumption of daily rise in infections. The rolling average, taking the average of the day with the daily totals from the previous six days, has been found to be a useful tool in plotting the course of an epidemic or pandemic since it evens out marginal daily dips and peaks, and takes into account delays at test centres, a clerk forgetting to forward a day’s results from some hospital, and the like. A graph of the daily rolling average maps fairly precisely the course of a wave.
Daily infection rates, averaging around 35 a day after the second wave was beaten back, started rising at the beginning of the second week of last month with the rolling average going into three figures by the end of that week, tripling again over the next week, more than doubling again in the fourth week and going over 1 000 to 1 063 by July 2. The next 10 days saw no remission as the rolling average doubled yet again to 2 058 by July 12 and then kept climbing up to 2 355 on July 15, that was Thursday last week.
That figure may go down as the peak of the third wave average, just as the day before, Wednesday July 14, was the worst single day for infections with 3 110. On Friday last week the first glimmer of hope that the daily infection rate might be starting to plateau came when the rolling average slipped slightly to 2 300, and then kept inching down to yesterday’s 2 074. But the plateau, if this is the turning point, was reached at a very high cost.
That rolling average of 2 074 is around 60 times the 35 or so daily infections we were seeing before the wave started breaking on our shore around six weeks ago and that huge multiple shows just how much progress we need to make before we reach our Level Two background rates while we wait for enough people to be vaccinated to see a seriously large reduction in infection risks. Average daily death rates, regrettably, kept rising with their peak coming later. This is because the people dying today fell sick up to a fortnight ago.
Covid-19 takes time to kill. But there are small signs that at least the growth in daily death rates is starting to stall although we are still looking at the rolling average of deaths remaining well above 60 people dying each day. After a tour of NatPharm yesterday German Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Udo Volz said: “We have had this tour of NatPharm, very impressive, thank you very much for showing us these facilities you have established here. “The very encouraging policy of the Ministry (of Health and Child Care) to produce your own medication on other fields, in various fields of chronic diseases, I think is a very commendable and very important effort by the Government of Zimbabwe.”
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister, Dr John Mangwiro said the secret to Zimbabwe’s successful programme was the acumen of President Mnangagwa. “Our President His Excellency Dr ED Mnangagwa for his accurate, sharp planning and focus. First and foremost is knowing the population, he set aside US$100 million for us to acquire the vaccines. “On July 25 we are going to receive one million vaccines from Sinovac, one million syringes from Sinovac and two million syringes from Sinopharm.”
Said WHO country representative Dr Alex Gasasira, through a representative: “Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a third wave of increased Covid-19 cases. I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the Government of Zimbabwe for the continued very strong leadership in the national response.
“The ongoing efforts to ensure stronger compliance with public health and social measures as well as increase Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the population are laudable. “Whilst the vaccination campaign offers the people of Zimbabwe the much-needed immunity against the disease, it is the responsibility of everyone to continue taking precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“WHO also urges those who are not yet vaccinated to do so, to ensure that the country realises the herd immunity to protect the population who cannot be vaccinated, such as newborns or those who have compromised immune systems.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude towards our frontline health workers, front-line response workers including teachers who continue to make heroic efforts to prevent, detect and respond to Covid-19.”