Zim Could Attain Herd Immunity In Five Years At Prevailing Immunization Rate- Experts

AT the current daily vaccination rate of 20,000 people, it could take Zimbabwe four to five years to vaccinate 60 percent of the population that is required to achieve herd immunity, Zimbabwe health experts have said.

By Michael Gwarisa

Local Immunologist and Public Health expert, Dr Tinashe Gede said Zimbabwe was too early in the vaccination race and at the prevailing daily vaccination rate, it was impossible to vaccinate 60 percent of the population by end of December 2021.

As we speak in Zimbabwe, I think our cumulative COVID-19 vaccination rate is over 200,000 people who have been vaccinated with this single dose. The population percentage that has received both doses is still 0.2 percent of the population and our target number is at least 60-70%. That number belongs to this thing that is called Herd immunity. For the past week, we are vaccinating about 20,000 people are day.

“Now to give you a sense of how well or how bad we are doing, when the national program started on February 18, 2021, we estimated that if we were going to vaccinate nine million people which is about 60% of Zimbabwe’s population by December, you would need to be giving about 75,000 doses per day. Now, going at 20,000 doses a day like we are doing right now, it could probably take us about five years to have everybody in the 60 percent proposed figure vaccinated. So clearly, we need to scale up our vaccination efforts both in terms of people’s awareness and understanding of what they are and actually administering for those who are willing,” said Dr Gede.

Herd immunity, or community immunity is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care’s (MoHCC) Health Promotions Manager, Mr Paul Chinakidzwa said it was too early to predict when Zimbabwe will attain Herd immunity due to high vaccine hesitancy obtaining at community level.

“I am not sure of the length of time it will take to reach the 60% that is targeted with vaccinations because it depends at the rate at which people are coming for the vaccines. For example, in the first phase, we were targeting to vaccinate 100,000 people but there was slow uptake. Other things that we have also to consider is that of availability of the vaccines,” said Mr Chinakidzwa.

Other countries in the developed world have advanced their inoculation interventions amidst indications that some countries such as the United Kingdom are at the brink of attaining herd immunity at the back of massive vaccinations.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Zimbabwe’s National Professions Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Dr Edmore Munongo said in as much as countries such as the United Kingdom had advanced their vaccination programs, poor countries such as Zimbabwe and other developing nations were still struggling to source vaccines for their citizens.

“Inequitable distribution of vaccines across the world with richer nations getting a bigger share and poorer nations struggling to get even the little that they can is making it difficult for low resource countries to advance vaccine access.

“They are other countries that have not even seen a single vaccine dose to date, so those inequities need to be addressed. While other countries actually have more than what they need, some are still struggling to get access to the vaccines,” said Dr Munongo.

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