THE government of Zimbabwe has backtracked on its earlier position to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for top officials only and now plans to buy drugs to inoculate two-thirds of the population amid a continued surge in infections and deaths.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa Tuesday met local business leaders and according to a proposal presented, the Covid-19 shots will be jointly acquired by the government and private companies.
However, the government did not provide further details on how the vaccine purchases will be funded or which companies will contribute. It was also unclear, which business executives Mnangagwa met.
Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 14.65 million people according to 2019 figures and the government spokesperson, Nick Mangwana, said the state has the capacity to inoculate about 10 million people.
“Any support goes a long way to make sure resources are not diverted from other sectors,” he said by text message to Bloomberg.
“The private sector expressed its keen desire to complement government efforts in procuring Covid-19 vaccines. Thousands of units of vaccines were pledged by the private sector,” Mangwana added in separate statement.
Businesses offered to procure double the number of vaccines they need for their employees and make half that amount available to the government for use in high-priority individuals in the public sector, according to the proposal seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by Mangwana.
The southern African nation plans to rely on an immunisation programme already in place to roll-out the shots, in addition to companies setting aside spaces at their facilities that will be used to inoculate staff and their families.
A technical team is being assembled to identify vaccine options from the US, Europe, China and India to “assess the ones most suited for the infrastructure available in rural and urban Zimbabwe,” according to the proposal.
The proposal was reached a day after a senior government official had sensationally claimed only cabinet ministers, senior government officials, lawmakers and those in the security sector would only have access to the vaccine leaving out millions of Zimbabweans stranded.
“The vaccine might not be enough and there will be a group that will be prioritised such as frontline workers, ministers, MPs and members of the security sector,” the health ministry monitoring and evaluation officer, Robert Mudyiradima told the legislators Monday.
However, Mudyiradima’s statements have drawn the ire of human rights and civic society activists who expressed shock over the government’s plans.
As at 26 January 2021, Zimbabwe had recorded 32 004 Covid-19 cases, including 23 413 recoveries and 1 103 deaths.