HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe will receive 200,000 free doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Thursday, after China and Russia offered shots against the coronavirus to the impoverished southern African nation.
Mnangagwa, in a nationally televised address, also said there were plans to vaccinate at least 60% of the population using government and private sector funding.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased rapidly in Zimbabwe over the past few weeks, with about 70% of its known 33,964 infections and more than two thirds of the 1,269 deaths recorded since the beginning of January.
The Sinopharm vaccine is approved in China for general public use and is also being administered in a number of other countries. “This kind gesture attests to the fact that China is indeed a true friend of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.
China is a major investor in Zimbabwe especially in diamond mining and the energy sector, where it is building power stations, and is providing loans after Western lenders pulled out following more than two decades of Zimbabwean arrears.
Chinese Ambassador Guo Shaochun said on Tuesday Zimbabwe was one of the first 14 countries to receive vaccine aid from Beijing.
Mnangagwa said his government had finalised a vaccine deployment strategy that would see at least 9 million people – 60% of the population – being inoculated.
“First phase of inoculation will see frontline workers, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions being prioritised,” he said, giving no further detail.
A finance ministry official said last week Zimbabwe had set aside $100 million to procure COVID-19 vaccines.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich)