Zimbabwe, a southern African country with a stricken economy and health system, received on Monday 15 February a first batch of 200,000 vaccines against Covid-19, a donation from the Chinese manufacturer Sinopharm.
Protected by a tarpaulin, the precious doses arrived by plane at Harare airport, AFP journalists noted. The vaccines travelled on board the country’s only working plane, an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767, often used by former President Robert Mugabe to receive medical treatment or undergo tests abroad.
« We will not forget that in a situation of need, China reacted quickly, » Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said at the airport, welcoming a « timely » donation and « further proof of the long bond of friendship and solidarity » between the two countries. The vaccines will still have to be checked by the local drug control authority before they can be administered.
Negotiations with other laboratories
Zimbabwe is the first country in southern Africa to receive the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine. Its effectiveness against the variant that appeared in neighbouring South Africa, which has spread widely, has not been publicly disclosed. « Next month we will acquire 600,000 more doses from China and the programme will continue until the target of 1.8 million doses is reached, » said Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, who was also present at the airport. The government is in negotiations with other laboratories, including the Russian vaccine manufacturer Sputnik V.
Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate 10 million people, about two-thirds of the population, to achieve herd immunity. Ruined, however, the country has budgeted $100 million for vaccination, which will be free in the country. Zimbabwe officially has more than 35,000 cases of infection, including 1,400 deaths. Affected by a second wave of the pandemic that was more violent than the first, the country imposed a new containment last month, with a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.