Proper planning key on vaccines

February 3, 2021

South Africa received the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on Monday which will accelerate its plans to stem the deadly virus.

The 1million AstraZeneca vaccine doses will be inoculated on frontline healthcare workers, starting mid this month.

Last month, Zambia said it had been allocated 8.7m under the continental plan to acquire 270m Covid-19 vaccines. Zambia’s allocation could rise to 25m doses by December.

“If member states have to buy individually, they have to wait until July 2022, but through this mechanism, we can access the vaccines by April 2021,” Zambia’s ambassador to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the AU, Emmanuel Mwamba was quoted as saying.

Malawi will get the first consignment of AstraZeneca vaccine at the end of this month for rollout in March. The vaccine will be administered to a fifth of the population with priority given to frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.

In November, Botswana signed an agreement with the global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organisation, giving it the option to buy coronavirus vaccines for 20% of its population.

Botswana made an upfront payment as it does not qualify for subsidised vaccines under the COVAX scheme because it is classified as an upper middle income country like neighbours Namibia and South Africa.

It’s not only in the region where there is a vaccine race; it is the same scenario globally as countries move to defend their citizens against the lethal virus.

That urgency to procure vaccines has not been replicated by Zimbabwe.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that US$100m has been set aside to buy the vaccines and the Southern African nation was waiting to see which vaccines to procure and from whom.

There are no timelines. It is as if the world owes Zimbabwe a living.

This laid-down approach is dangerous and mischievous at a time there is rising demand for the vaccines as manufacturers struggle to supply.

There are also fears the rich nations could hoard the vaccines leaving poorer nations to scrounge for the doses.

There are also fears of vaccines nationalism after the European Union said last week it would implement a transparency and authorisation mechanism for exports of Covid-19 vaccines.

The bloc says the measure is motivated by the need to ensure timely access to Covid-19 vaccines for all EU citizens and to tackle the current lack of transparency of vaccine exports outside the EU.

While the EU was quick to say their action was not an export ban but specifically target exports of Covid-19 vaccines covered by an Advance Purchase Agreement with the EU, there is no guarantee that the bloc would adhere to that.

This brings to the fore the need for proper planning as there is global competition to get the vaccines.

By now Zimbabwe should have a plan on when the vaccines would arrive and how they would be administered.

The government has said health workers will be the first to be inoculated. The list of those to be given priority is growing. As reported elsewhere in this edition, veterans of the liberation struggle also want to be prioritized.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti touched off a storm recently when he accused the government of failing to plan for the virus saying Zimbabwe was now afflicted by a ‘plandemic’ and not a pandemic.

Planning should be the buzzword in government corridors otherwise the goal of inoculating citizens would not be achieved.

French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry spoke of the importance of a plan thus: “a goal without a plan is just a wish”.

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