Source: US$100m war chest for vaccine | Sunday Mail

Debra Matabvu

Zimbabwe has a ready US$100 million war chest to procure Covid-19 vaccine doses to inoculate at least 60 percent of the country’s population.

This comes as the private sector is working on modalities to purchase vaccines for its employees. A headcount of the workers and their dependants has already been launched.

Industrialist Mr Busisa Moyo, one of the business leaders involved in the initiative, said the exercise would be completed by the end of this week.

The Government has drawn funding for the procurement of about 20 million jabs from last year’s budget surplus, redirection of this year’s budgeted resources and support from the donor community.

The vaccines will be secured through an African Union (AU)-led initiative that has so far procured over 270 million vaccines for the continent. These will be allocated according to a country’s population size.

Pfizer and AstraZeneca are set to supply the vaccines through the Serum Institute of India, and Johnson & Johnson.

Vaccinating more than half the country’s population will induce herd immunity. This happens when a large population of a community is immune to a disease, making its continued spread unlikely.

Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary Mr George Guvamatanga told The Sunday Mail yesterday that Treasury was awaiting authorisation of the vaccines by local regulators before placing a concrete order.

“We are participating in the AU scheme and we have expressed interest already,” he said.

“The Government has set aside US$100 million for the vaccines to procure around 20 million vaccine doses to immunise 60 percent of the population, which will help us attain herd immunity.

“There are no standard prices for the vaccines because they are coming from different developers, but we have set aside US$100 million for that.

“So we are now waiting for the scientists to tell us which vaccine to buy and where to procure it from,” said Mr Guvamatanga.

Zimbabwe has enough funds to buy the vaccines, he said.

“We have a budget of over $421 billion so it is only a matter of reallocating funds towards vaccine procurement. We also have a surplus from last year, which we can use to buy the vaccines so we are more than capable of procuring the vaccines.

“What I can say is we are ready and we have the capacity to procure the vaccines.”

Only the vaccines approved by the African Centre for Disease control will be distributed under the initiative.

The Government is pursuing other vaccine procurement vehicles including the World Health Organisation-led vaccine-pool, known as Covax, which plans to secure and distribute billions of doses to African countries once approved.

Furthermore, the United Kingdom has offered to vaccinate 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s population.

Last week, the Government roped in the private sector to help pool resources for vaccine procurement.

President Mnangagwa discussed with business leaders from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce in a virtual meeting last week, to explore ways the Government and the private sector can work together to procure additional coronavirus vaccines.

CZI president Mr Henry Ruzvidzo said consultations among business leaders was ongoing.

“Our understanding is that the Government will make decisions on the vaccine as well as the time table for acquiring and rolling out of the vaccination programme,” said Mr Ruzvidzo.

“The private sector has expressed willingness to assist with the programme. Consultative meetings are being held with the various private sector players as well as ongoing discussions with the public sector.”

The Sunday Mail has gathered that vaccines procured under this facility will largely be directed towards workers and their immediate families.

“At the moment, we are conducting a headcount of the number of employees in the private sector as well as their dependants,” said Mr Moyo.

“We are set to meet again next week (this week) and by the end of the week, we will know the number of people to be vaccinated and the amount of money to be spent on the vaccines.”

Lockdown flattens the curve

Meanwhile, the Level Four lockdown introduced earlier this month and extended by a further two weeks, has witnessed a dramatic reduction in new cases.

Chief Co-ordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva said this indicates that the country’s response to the second wave is working.

“Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces continue to be the nation’s two biggest hotspots,” said Dr Mahomva in her weekly Covid-19 update.

“Note, however, that the provinces in the southern parts of the country such as Bulawayo metropolitan province itself seem to be on a recovery path, with their recorded new cases per week steadily going down.

“Implementation of the nation’s surge specific strategies and activities are beginning to show some results. The country is however, not out of the woods ye so we must remain focused and continue to strengthen our response,” she said.

Zimbabwe has recorded 32 952 cases and 1 178 deaths since recording its first infection in March last year. Of these, 24 872 people have recovered for the respiratory disease.

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