Govt Politicising Covid-19 Vaccines Buying, Distribution: ZDI Report

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By James Muonwa

PUBLIC policy think-tank, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) says government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement is shrouded in secrecy while deployment of the live-saving medicines was not equitable, particularly to marginalised communities.

In the wake of a spike in new infections and mortalities recorded in the country in recent weeks, ZDI implored the government to expedite the procurement of additional Covid-19 vaccines as the few available ones were not reaching most needy citizens.

In its Public Health Access Monitoring Report for June 2021 titled ‘Manipulative And Deceptive Politics On Covid-19 Vaccines Procurement’, the think-tank noted the critical shortages of vaccines.

“In the context of a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the country, the government appears to be moving with a very slow speed in the procurement of more additional vaccines.

“With the few vaccines available, their accessibility by the marginalised communities is a challenge as the situation on the ground suggests the centralisation of the vaccine deployment and roll out plan,” reads part of the report.

The report poked holes in the pledge by Treasury to fund the procurement of an additional 500 000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines by 15 June which were never delivered.

Also, the same government did not bother to explain non-delivery of the medicines, but rather on 22 June further promised citizens that it would take delivery of two million SinoVac vaccine doses by end of this month.

ZDI challenged Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to channel the $9, 8 billion budget ‘surplus’ that he recently declared towards buying adequate Covid-19 doses to meet the demand emanating from an increase in new infections this winter season.

Added the report, “Ensure rule of law and uniformity in the enforcement of revised Covid-19 containment measures announced on 12 June.”

Among some of its recommendations, ZDI says civil society should lobby for vaccines availability and accessibility in different geographical locations in the country and push government to fulfil its human rights obligations in relation to health access.

“Civil society should demand more transparency and accountability in the procurement and distribution of vaccines in a bid to build a fairer, more just and rights-respecting pandemic fight.”

The media was implored to report the status quo of Covid-19 vaccine shortages in outlying and disadvantaged localities.

The ZDI report came as Hurungwe district development coordinator, Andrew Tizora, during a provincial civil protection taskforce meeting held in Chinhoyi on Wednesday, lamented a shortage of vaccines in his area of jurisdiction, which has been declared a Covid-19 hotspot.

So far, 10 people have died from the pandemic in Hurungwe district following a surge in new infections this June.

“The 10 deaths recorded are all of people who were not vaccinated. Hurungwe is the epicentre of Covid-19 and people have been jolted into reality. They are now seeking vaccination but there are no vaccines.

“I understand there are plans in place (to rectify the shortage) but whenever vaccines are made available, prioritise us and send them to Hurungwe to get communities vaccinated in order to ensure the safety of the greater population,” said Tizora.

The provincial civil protection taskforce must urgently devise ways to ensure those who test positive for Covid-19 adhere to isolation protocols as some asymptomatic patients were spreading the highly-infectious disease by reporting for work or visiting public places in violation of standing Covid-19 prevention and containment protocols, Tizora added.