Beginning of April 2021, the government of Zimbabwe increased the number of Covid-19 vaccine centres across the country.
The move was aimed at decentralising the process and decongesting existing inoculation points.
In Harare, service centres were increased to 24, to release pressure on Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Bulawayo, the second largest city in the country now has 22 vaccination points.
The authoritisation of medical facilities under the purview of local authorities to dispense vaccines, helped the vaccine rollout to have a wider footprint as it presents in every district across the country.
Numbers of citizens who have received the vaccine in cities like Gweru and Mutare, have increased significantly as a result.
Mutare now has nine centres namely Meikles Park, Max Shopping Centre, Dangamvura Complex, Beit Hall, Chikanga Market, Hobhouse Shopping Centre, Mutare DDC’s Office and Sakubva Musika.
As a result, figures from the Ministry of Health and Child Care shows a rapid increase in vaccinations administered per day since the beginning of April when comparing with March figures.
In March, daily average figures of people vaccinated was mainly within the 1000 range with inoculations on 18 and 19 March recording 1685 and 395, respectively.
In contrast, since decentralization of vaccination sites came into effect, daily average figures for the month of April have been soaring beyond 10 000 people per day.
The highest recorded daily figure was on March 15 which had 21 300, followed by April 16 which had 16800.
As of Monday, this week, Zimbabwe had administered 280 568 vaccinations as it targets 10 million people or 60 percent of its population by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity.
Although the progress so far cannot be understated, time is not in favour of the authorities.
“What we will do further is to increase the number of outlets so that we reach our target figures quickly. We will have fixed outlets so if there is a clinic, we might have another outlet at shopping centres to make sure that people get their vaccines and we avoid long queues,” Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro said.
There are widespread concerns that the recent increase in number of people vaccinated still falls below projected timelines if the country is to meet its end-of-year targets.
Zimbabwe`s vaccine drive faces two obstacles; firstly, the availability of funds to timeously procure more vaccines and secondly, managing negative perceptions regarding the effectiveness of the vaccines in light of global criticism of the Chinese vaccines.
According to an analysis of data collected by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker-released last week-, 40 percent of the Covid-19 vaccines administered globally have gone to people in 27 wealthy nations.
The figure translates to only 11 percent of the global population.
Countries considered to be less wealthy account for only 1.6 percent of the total number of vaccines administered so far.
In perspective, countries with the highest incomes are vaccinating 25 times faster than those with the lowest.
Zimbabwe has brought in 1.2 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine purchased from China on top of the donations of 400 000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China and 35 000 Covaxin from India.
There have been observations of poor turnout at most council clinics in high density suburbs across Harare, due to lack of information about the availability of such services at the centres combined with suspicion of the vaccines.
“Decentralization of vaccination centres is a necessary move because vaccines need to reach out especially in hard-hit areas so that we cover everyone.
But I think the government needs to educate people more about what the low efficacy of the Chinese vaccines mean because even if they have a low efficacy rate in terms of preventing primary infection, they still have a high efficacy rate in terms of preventing death, hospitalization and other diseases,” Dr Norman Matara from Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights said.
In comparison with regional peers, Zimbabwe has done fairly better according to regional standards, although a lot remains to be done to scale up its mass vaccination drive.
South Africa has already set up 2000 vaccination centres nationwide with the aim of inoculating 200 000 people per day in the next two weeks, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently said.
Ghana has vaccinated over 756 000 people, which is more than double the Zimbabwean figures (280 568) while Kenya vaccinated 652 000. Other countries like Zambia (1 360) are still significantly behind Zimbabwe.