GETTING the second dose of the COVAXIN vaccine is proving to be a mammoth task for thousands of Zimbabweans who received the first dose of Indian manufactured vaccine with evidence on the ground showing that majority who received their jabs in May haven’t received their second shots to date, HealthTimes has learnt.
By Michael Gwarisa
Zimbabwe has to date received 35,000 doses of the COVAXIN from the 75 000 doses that were pledged by the government of India at the beginning of the National vaccination program. The country is yet to receive the remaining 40,000 doses five months later, leaving several thousands stranded while some have already given up on getting the second dose.
According to investigations conducted by this publication, majority of the people who received the COVAXIN have been moving from health institution to another in search of the elusive COVAXIN amidst indications that health workers especially nurses administering vaccines were turning people away citing that they had to received instructions to mix vaccines or to give Sinopharm or Sinovac as second doses.
I went to Mt Pleasant satellite and they indicated that they have no COVAXIN in stock and they would not give me another vaccine type as a second jab. It is a different story everyday from we don’t have staff to we don’t have vaccines. I went to Avondale and Borrowdale as well and it was the same story.
“I had not received my second dose since June 30. I went to Parirenyatwa and they also indicated that they don’t have COVAXIN and refused to inoculate me with a different vaccine. I went to several hospitals and they refused so I ended up going to Health Point where I paid US$10 to get Sinovac as a second jab,” said a disgruntled citizen who commented anonymously.
However, there is no available data on whether the effectiveness of the COVAXIN decreases or increases if the gap is widened as during the trial, everyone was given the second dose after 28 days. Hence, its two doses are given 28 days apart and no change has been suggested to this gap.
Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) were fruitless as the Deputy Health and Child Care Minister, Dr John Mangwiro referred us to the Director Curative Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr Maxwell Hove whom he said was better placed to give a comprehensive response on the available vaccine quantities and the matter at hand. Dr Hove had not responded to our inquiry by the time of publishing.
Mr Itai Rusike, the Executive Director Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), also confirmed the sad development and said the people who had not been fully vaccinated were still at greater risk of catching COVID-19 infection.
“The CWGH has been receiving several queries and complaints from frustrated people who got their first jabs from the COVAXIN vaccine way back in May and are still to get their second jabs almost five months overdue. It’s unfortunate that people took steps to get vaccinated but are now getting stressed as they have been waiting for too long to get their second jab thereby leaving them not fully immunized and exposing them to unnecessary Covid-19 infections, hospitalization or even death,” said Mr Rusike.
He added that government should have followed up the Covaxin vaccine donation from the government of India by using the domestic resources to make an additional procurement of the similar vaccine at least for those that got their first jab of the Covaxin vaccine as the people were now feeling being excluded and neglected threatening the national vaccination gains that the country has achieved so far and also discouraging other people from coming forward to take up the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s top Physician and Immunologist, Dr Tinashe Gede said those who received the COVAXIN vaccine were equally legible to get the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines as they all belonged to the same family of vaccines.
“The Covaxin platform is an inactivated vaccine, very much the same as Sinopharm and Sinovac so from a scientific perspective its perfectly okay for them to get these as second doses. I am not sure what has been communicated (or not) but I would hope they have been made aware of this and will present themselves for boosters,” said Dr Gede.
Zimbabwe has to date fully vaccinated slightly above 2 million citizens, however, several thousands who received the COVAXIN are yet to be fully vaccinated as they have only received the first dose.