By Anna Chibamu
ALL private companies in need of Covid-19 vaccines will have to go through the national Treasury where they deposit funds and the relevant government authorities will purchase the required doses on their behalf.
This was confirmed by the Deputy Health Minister John Mangwiro in the House of Assembly this week.
Last week, government received a donation of 200 000 Sinopharm vaccines from China with more doses expected next month.
However, the doses are not enough to inoculate an estimated 10 million people in the country and several privates companies have approached government with the intention of procuring the vaccines for their employees and the workers’ immediate family members.
Medical aid societies also want to procure the vaccines for their members.
However, Mangwiro said this will only be possible if the government is responsible for paying and bringing the vaccines required by the private players into Zimbabwe.
He said the decision was to ensure the vaccines brought into Zimbabwe are safe and to avoid the exchange of foreign currency as some companies might want to make money from importing the doses for resell at a profit when the government’s position is the vaccines are for free.
“Yes, it is correct that government is making sure that things are safe for this new vaccine. We also want to make sure that Zimbabweans get this vaccine for free no matter the level,” said Mangwiro.
“So the private players, if they want to bring in their vaccines, if there is any particular one that they want that is registered here, they are allowed to bring it but make sure that it goes through government channels.”
Several senior government officials including former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo have in recent months been arrested for corruption after defrauding funds meant for the procurement of Covid-19 material.
However, Mangwiro said the registration for the importation of the coronavirus vaccines had been simplified and will not take more than three days.
“There are many vaccines that are being registered and the registration process has been made easy. Instead of taking three months or so, it is now taking two or three days, if all documents are there. We have already registered three or four (companies).
“Private players like medical aid societies for example CIMAS and other big corporates like Econet have already approached the ministry with the wish to help out. The companies were welcome to bring in their money, tell government what they want to do and buy through the government so that all the vaccines that are bought could be registered in the country.”
Mangwiro added; “Government will only monitor to make sure that the vaccines are registered here and that they are going to be kept safely. We are also going to be inspecting where the vaccines are going to be stored or if they want, they can come and pick their vaccines in drips and drabs and give to their CIMAS members or all those people. The Finance Ministry has opened a special account for private people who want to buy these vaccines.”
However, Harare East MP Tendai Biti queried why the government had to be paid money to import the vaccines arguing it should only play a regulatory role.
“For everything else in this country including drugs, ARVs (Anti-retroviral drugs) etcetera, private companies are bringing in, even food.
“The government should only play a regulatory role to ensure that the drugs that we are bringing are registered, safe and are kept in the proper refrigerated conditions,” argued Biti.