Zimbabwe starts administering China's Sinopharm vaccines

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A nurse prepares to give a shot of China's Sinopharm vaccine to Zimbabwean Deputy President Constatino Chiwenga, right, at local hospital in Harare, Thursday, Feb, 18, 2021. Chiwenga become the first person in the country to receive the jab marking the first phase of the country's vaccination campaign. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE – Zimbabwe started giving COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday, with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga volunteering for the first jab at a hospital in the capital, Harare.

“I will show you,” Chiwenga said to laughter while unbuttoning his shirt.

Zimbabwe is starting its rollout with China's Sinopharm vaccine and Chiwenga said he took the first shot to “exhibit the government’s confidence" in the inoculation.

Zimbabwe received 200,000 doses of Sinopharm on Monday as a donation from China's government, joining Egypt and Equatorial Guineas as the first few African countries to get the vaccine.

Another 600,000 Sinopharm doses purchased by the Zimbabwean government are expected to arrive early next month, according to government officials. The southern African nation also expects to get other vaccines from Britain, India and Russia.

Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate 10 million of its people, which represents 60% of the country’s population and which health officials say will achieve herd immunity.

Herd immunity is when enough people have immunity, either from vaccination or a past infection, to stop the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Nobody knows what herd immunity would be for the coronavirus. Many experts say it’s 70% or higher.

Zimbabwe “has also submitted its expression of interest” to be part of an initiative by the African Union to bulk buy vaccines for the continent, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said last week. The government says it has budgeted $100 million for vaccines and local businesses have also been asked to donate to the effort.