BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Victoria Falls residents have embraced the mass Covid-19 vaccination programme with 6 000 people getting the Sinopharm dose in three days after the government launched a blitz targeting the resort city last week.
According to the authorities, 26 000 residents from the city and surrounding villagers will be vaccinated in 28 days as part of efforts to prepare for the safe resumption of tourism activities in Zimbabwe’s prime tourist attraction.
Fungai Musinami, acting Victoria Falls district medical officer, said the response to the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine was overwhelming.
“Since Monday, we have vaccinated over 6 000 people and we are happy with the results,” Musinami said.
“On the first day (Monday), we vaccinated 660 and on Tuesday we vaccinated 2 270 and (on Wednesday) we vaccinated 3 200 plus people and these figures include both tourism workers and the general populace.
“For now we are using the Sinopharm vaccine. In our next phase, we may start using Sinovac, but these are just different brands with very similar vaccine ingredients.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine in Victoria Falls last Wednesday where he urged Zimbabweans to take up the Covid-19 vaccines from China and shun conspiracy theories.
Mnangagwa said the mass vaccination programme in Victoria Falls was part of efforts to revive Zimbabwe’s tourism industry that has been crippled by the outbreak of Covid-19.
“The pandemic was a huge blow for Zimbabwe’s tourism,” he posted on Twitter last Thursday.
“There was a 90% decline in visitors in 2020. But we can only re-open our industry when our people are protected.
“That’s why from yesterday, all residents of Victoria Falls are eligible for vaccination.”
The vaccination blitz will also target villagers on the periphery of Victoria Falls such as Monde, Chidobe, Lupinyu and Mvuthu.
Winding queues were observed on Thursday at vaccination points such as Chinotimba Medical Clinic, Medical Air Rescue Services (Mars), Beat Aids Project Zimbabwe Clinic, Zimbabwe Republic Police station, Chinotimba Clinic and Victoria Falls Hospital.
Meluleki Dube (21), who had just received the first jab at Chinotimba Clinic, said he was playing his role in ensuring that Victoria Falls returned to normalcy after a year of upheavals.
“This is not only for me but my family, friends and our tourists,” Dube said.
“I am feeling a bit dizzy and sleepy, but l was told that these are side effects that will go away after a few hours. I am not regretting my decision to take the vaccine.”
Dube’s friend Kezia Mwinde urged fellow residents to take the Covid-19 vaccines, saying it will help end the city’s economic woes caused by lockdowns.
“I am not feeling anything, and the injection does not hurt,” Mwinde said.
“So I would like to encourage everyone in this town to take the vaccine as we were told that this will pave way for the re-opening of the tourism industry.
“We have been suffering a lot because most of us lost our jobs when this pandemic started.”
According to the Health and Child Care ministry, 49 404 Zimbabweans had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine since the launch of the vaccination programme last month.
Musinami was hopeful that the vaccination rollout marked the beginning of a journey towards the re-opening of the tourism sector and restoration of jobs.
“I must commend the people of Victoria Falls for their response to the vaccination programme,” she said.
“Thank you for taking responsibility to not only protect yourself, but also your community and thank you for doing your part in the process of bringing back travel and tourism on which livelihoods depend.
“Together we have walked this difficult journey of the Covid-19 pandemic and together we shall surely come out victorious as each individual does their part.
“I continue to encourage all people from 18 years and above to go to any one of our sites and be vaccinated and continue to mask up, sanitise, maintain physical distance and practice good hygiene.”
Besides the established vaccination points, health authorities have introduced mobile units targeting schools and tourist facilities around Victoria Falls.
— Misa Zimbabwe Covid-19 Hub