UNLIKE other COVID-19 vaccines that were developed using the Messenger Ribonucleic Acids (M-RNA) technology, vaccines manufactured using a killed/inactivated virus such as the Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN currently being administered in Zimbabwe do not require expensive subzero cold-chain infrastructure.
By Michael Gwarisa
The messenger RNA technology was deployed in the Pfizer, Mordena and other vaccines, making such vaccines unsuitable for hot climatic conditions such as the one in Zimbabwean unless the country installs a costly deep freeze airport warehouse, procures and modifies refrigerated vehicles and inoculation points to ensure the dosses are stored at -70 degrees Celsius and injected within a very short space of time.
Speaking during the official launch of Zimbabwe’s Private Sector Vaccination program in Harare Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr John Mangwiro said the technology that was used to produce the Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN is the same technology that developed Polio vaccines which have always been administered in the country.
As a country, we have always been vaccinating and vaccination is not a new thing to us. The vaccine that we are using here in Zimbabwe is not different from the vaccines we have always been using traditionally. We immunize our children against Polio, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis among other ailments. Vaccines for these diseases are stored between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
“Now there are other vaccines that require specialized refrigeration facilities. Some of these vaccines need to be stored below -75 or -80 Degrees Celsius. Even if we are to invite our local business players to start producing refrigerators that freeze items to -75, by the time they complete manufacturing these, COVID-19 would have wiped us all,” said Dr Mangwiro.
He added that before they make decisions around health interventions of national scale, they consult health experts to ascertain and come up with suitable solutions for the good of the people.
“So what we do is we sit down as experts and doctors and other experts from the Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) to analyze and see which suitable vaccines we must adopt as a nation. We also look at our capacity to store these vaccines before making a commitment. As experts we agreed that the best we can do and the best vaccines we can store are those that require refrigeration of at least-30 Degrees Celsius, the one that has always been used by Zimbabwe’s Cold Storage Commission (CSC).
“If we take a vaccine that requires refrigeration of -75, once it gets to the airport, that’s it. It will be useless; we will be left with no option but to throw it away. We made the decision we made to use the Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXCIN after realizing these also these are the same vaccines we are used to as a nation and the other ones the messenger RNA need to be transported by adeno viruses or other viruses that come from Chimpanzees and then gets into a cell to form proteins that trigger antibodies to work. We are not used to that and we do not have means of storing such vaccines.”
The expense of deploying messenger RNA vaccines such as the Pfizer has heightened fears that probably only wealthier nations will get the MRNA vaccines owing to their demanding cold chain infrastructure which most poorer countries cannot afford.
Meanwhile, 400, 000 people have received the first dose of the vaccines in Zimbabwe while 76 826 have received the second dose. As at April 29, 2021, Zimbabwe had recorded a cumulative 38, 235 COVID-19 cases, 35, 594 recoveries and 1567 deaths.
“The vaccine we have in Zimbabwe not entirely new. Back in the day during times when measles was a problem, a certain guy had visited Africa and discovered that those who