JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A plane carrying Zimbabwe’s first coronavirus vaccines, 200,000 doses donated by China, arrived in the capital Harare on Monday.
A further 600,000 doses from China are set to arrive in early March, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said last week. It is unclear how much the cash-strapped southern African nation will pay for the second batch of the vaccines from China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, head of the delegation receiving the vaccines that included the finance minister, said frontline health workers would be the first to be vaccinated.
“This is a timely donation…our people have suffered from this pandemic. The vaccine offers the possibility that our people who have borne the brunt of the economic ravages of the pandemic might finally turn a new page,” Chiwenga said.
Zimbabwe has set aside $100 million for vaccine procurement, and is looking to buy 20 million doses in efforts to immunise about 60% of its population and achieve herd immunity.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said around 1.8 million vaccine doses would be acquired from China. He did not give further details.
Last week, West African nation Senegal paid $3.7 million for 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine – nearly $19 per shot.
Only a handful of African nations have begun giving vaccinations as the continent scrambles to obtain supplies for its 1.3 billion people, even as many richer nations are racing ahead with mass immunisation programmes.
The African Union says it has secured roughly 670 million doses for the African continent.
Zimbabwe is also negotiating with Russia over the procurement of its Sputnik vaccines and was expecting more doses from India and COVAX.
The country has so far reported close to 35,000 confirmed cases of the virus and nearly 1,400 deaths.
(Reporting by Philimon Bulawayo; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)