‘Running dry’: Zimbabweans turned away for vaccinations after shortages

As staff sit idle in treatment centres, anger focuses on government failures to secure supplies as fears of a third wave increase

Hundreds of people are being turned away from vaccination centres in Zimbabwe as the country’s supplies of China’s Sinovac vaccine appear to have run out, triggering panic that the government is failing to acquire new stocks.

While the government said that it had taken delivery of more medicines in recent weeks, centres in Harare have not had any stocks for nearly a week and there is growing anger at the failure to communicate acute vaccine shortages, which are being reported around the country.

In Bulawayo, authorities last week suspended vaccination programmes due to a lack of vaccines.

At Wilkins hospital in the capital, Harare, people demanded an explanation from the matron after nurses turned away dozens of people who had arrived for their second dose of Sinovac.

The hospital, Harare’s leading Covid-19 referral centre, is now administering only India’s Covaxin jab, the uptake of which remains low among Zimbabweans.

“We only have Covaxin for the second jab. We do not have the Sinovac second dose. If you are waiting for the Sinovac second dose, check towards the end of the week. We are still waiting for deliveries. They delivered Covaxin yesterday, we hope the Sinovac will come soon,” the matron said, to jeers from the crowd.

According to the government, as of 31 May, 675,678 people in Zimbabwe had received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, while 344,400 had received their second.

With a population of 14.6 million, Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate 10 million people. It received 1.5m doses from China, while India donated 35,000 shots of Covaxin.

Many at Wilkins hospital this week were afraid their first dose would lose effectiveness without the second.

The chief coordinator of Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 response, Agnes Mahomva, said: “We have heard such stories of shortages but we asked the Ministry of Health to do an assessment on the ground. All clinics got quantities that are proportional to their size but some moved vaccines faster than others. So the Ministry of Health is currently doing the redistribution of vaccines. Any minute from now we should hear from them.”

Previously a bustling centre vaccinating hundreds of people daily, Wilkins now operates one inoculation table where Covaxin is being administered.

“We only had the second dose sometime last week. We spend most of the time sitting, there is nothing to do. If you see such large centres running dry, it is almost certain that [smaller] polyclinics also do not have any vaccines,” a nurse said.

Mernard Makotore, 50, travelled about 40 miles from Darwendale, a town west of Harare, to get his second vaccine.

“I came here very early only to be told at 8am that there are no vaccines. I was supposed to have come on 20 May, but my mother passed away so I could not get the vaccine. We are getting into the cold season and cases are starting to rise again. The government needs to do something fast,” Makotore said.

“Why did they give us the first dose, if they knew that the second dose would not be available,” he added.

Claudina Maneni, 43, had come with her 70-year-old mother.

“I have been coming here for the past five days and they are telling me the same story. I came here again at 4am with my elderly mother, she desperately needs her second dose because of travel. The minister of finance assured us that he was going to buy more vaccines but there is nothing,” Maneni said.

“We hear that vaccines are now being sold in private practices. This is the corruption that we do not want. Zimbabweans should never tolerate such incompetence.”

Despite initial scepticism about the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, Zimbabweans have been commended by their president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, for overcoming their hesitancy in the past month. He also gave assurances that more vaccines were on their way.

Experts say the government should speed up vaccination as winter may bring more cases, with fears that a third wave could bring the already precarious economy to its knees.


Nyasha Chingono in Harare

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Half of Zimbabweans fell into extreme poverty during Covid
Poor families cannot afford healthcare and schooling but good harvests offer some hope, World Bank finds

Nyasha Chingono in Harare

21, Jun, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘Think of others’: elderly people in Zimbabwe dispel scepticism on Covid vaccine
While younger generations remain suspicious, growing numbers of senior citizens are taking up the jab

Nyasha Chingono in Harare

08, Apr, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
‘We were never a priority’: Zimbabwe Covid ‘hotspots’ face strict lockdown
Tighter restrictions in 12 mostly rural areas come as health service struggles to cope with third wave of infections

Nyasha Chingono

25, Jun, 2021 @6:01 AM

Article image
‘We are protected by prayers’: the sects hampering southern Africa’s vaccine rollout
With millions of followers, the stance of some Apostolic church leaders threatens to undermine fight against Covid

Nyasha Chingono

01, Nov, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
‘No one may be compelled’: Zimbabwe unions go to court over Covid jabs
Firms accused of ‘rounding up workers like animals’ for compulsory vaccination as country acts to stop spread of virus

Nyasha Chingono in Harare

07, Sep, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
'We can't turn them away': the family kitchen fighting lockdown hunger in Zimbabwe
Samantha Murozoki bartered her jeans and sneakers to stop the food running out, inspiring others to pitch in

Nyasha Chingono in Harare

20, May, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Polio vaccinations resume in Pakistan and Afghanistan after Covid-19 delays
Fight to eradicate disease getting ‘back on track’ after surge in cases due to pause in vaccination campaigns

Akhtar Mohammad Makoii in Herat

12, Aug, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
No ticket to ride: Zimbabweans trapped for months without passports | Nyasha Chingono
With the passport office facing a backlog of 280,000 applications, some people have waited close to a year to work or study abroad

Nyasha Chingono

08, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘We cannot vote or get jobs’: plight of 300,000 Zimbabweans without documents
Amnesty is calling for action to help those with no papers who are denied access to education, employment and healthcare

Nyasha Chingono in Harare

12, Jul, 2021 @6:30 AM

Article image
‘They want to remove us and take the rock’, say Zimbabweans living near Chinese-owned mines
As companies extract wealth, villagers say they see little benefit and are instead exploited in quarries, live in homes damaged by blasts and are unable to farm polluted land

Nyasha Chingono in Mutoko

07, Jan, 2022 @9:30 AM