The Government of Zimbabwe has turned down a donation of three million doses from the African Union (AU) of the highly potent single dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine citing lack of storage facilities.
This comes at a time there is a spike in Covid-19 infections with the country having recorded over 1000 new cases on Saturday alone.
Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary, George Guvamatanga has given as an excuse, the lack of preparedness on storage requirements.
In a letter of rejection to the African Export-Import Bank, Guvamatanga also expressed government’s reservations about the vaccine’s possible side effects.
Guvamatanga wrote “… The government of Zimbabwe notes that there is an allocation of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines for August 2021. However, I wish to advise that the government of Zimbabwe is not yet ready to participate in the August allocation as measures are still being put in place to establish the cold chain management framework for the vaccines, as well as on management of the anticipated adverse effects of the vaccines following inoculation,”
He added: “Therefore, we will advise of our readiness to receive the vaccines once our internal processes have been conducted, hopefully in time for next allocation. I wish to restate the government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to participate in Africa Union Covid-19 vaccination programme which the bank is supporting.”
Clinical trials have shown that a single dose of the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 72% in the United States, and a lower efficacy in countries where more contagious variants are widespread.
Zimbabwe is currently battling to contain the rapidly spreading Delta variant and other highly prevalent coronavirus viral variants .
The vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgium-based subsidiary of American company Johnson & Johnson in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre has been authorised for emergency use by the European Union, the United States and other countries.
The AU set up the deal, in which the African Export-Import Bank would pay for 220 million doses of vaccines to be distributed equitably among member states.
The country is currently using China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines both from China, as well as Sputnik V from Russia and India’s AstraZeneca.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded a total of 1 860 Covid-19 deaths and 53 665 cases since the pandemic was first reported in the country in March last year.
As the cases spike, the government last week introduced Level Four lockdown restrictions, and suspended the reopening of schools, and mass gatherings among other measures