THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) says is this close to busting up an entire network of vaccination cards merchants who are selling stolen vaccination cards to unsuspecting members of the public who want to evade vaccination.
By Patricia Mashiri
The development comes hot on the heels of a series of events whereby hospitals and clinics have been reporting missing blank vaccination cards. Since Zimbabwe’s national vaccination initiative commenced in February this year, hundreds of blank vaccination cards have been reported missing from various parts of the country.
The recent incident is whereby 250 COVID-19 vaccination cards went missing from Cheshuro Rural Health Centre in Gutu, Masvingo province. Another 18 cards also went missing from Hwange’s St Patrick’s Hospital while a Marondera nurse appeared in court in August over 63 missing vaccination cards.
According to investigations by this publication, there was a spike in the purchase of vaccination cards on the black market as most University Students who were sitting for their exams at various institutions after the relaxation of the lockdown recently jostled to get the cards in advance in case vaccination was made a pre-requisite for one to enter the exam rooms.
In an interview with HealthTimes, Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they have intensified surveillance around the country and anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will serve as an example.
I don’t know the total number of the arrests we have made so far by head but I can confirm that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has made arrests of people that have been selling and buying vaccination cards.
“We have made arrest so far in Harare, Bindura and Victoria Falls of people who have been caught selling vaccination cards to the public. We encourage all Zimbabweans to go and get vaccinated and not buy vaccination cards whether from the streets, clinics or anywhere because vaccination is for free and no one should pay for it,” said Ass Comm Nyathi.
In terms of the penalty or jail sentence for anyone caught buying or selling vaccination cards, Ass Comm Nyathi said that was for the courts to decide but the likelihood of longer and stiffer sentence was inevitable as COVID-19 was a serious public health issue that needed to be given the seriousness it deserves.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a guidance document for countries and implementing partners on the technical requirements for issuing digital certificates for vaccination against COVDI-19 in a move that is likely to reduce incidences of fake vaccination certification or cards
WHO said the Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates is being proposed as a mechanism by which a person’s COVID-19-related health data can be digitally documented via an electronic certificate.
The certificate can be used in the same way as a paper-based vaccination record/card. That is to provide information to health care providers about the vaccination status of individuals, providing a basis for health workers to offer a subsequent dose and/or appropriate health services as appropriate.
“In some instances, vaccination cards are also used to facilitate international travel, for example in the case of yellow fever, where a vaccination certificate may be required by some countries as a condition of entry,” said WHO.
They added that historically, paper-based vaccination records have presented many challenges such as the possibility of losing or damaging the card, or even the possibility of fraud and the proposed digital solutions are designed to address these challenges.
“A vaccination certificate can be purely digital (for example stored in a smartphone application or on a cloud-based server) and replace the need for a paper card, or it can be a digital representation of the traditional paper-based record. The link between the paper record and the digital record can be established using a barcode, for example, printed on or affixed to the paper vaccination card. A digital certificate should never require individuals to have a smartphone or computer.”