The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube, Fairness Moyana and Nonsikelelo Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporters
THE Government is committed to making sure no child or pregnant women dies from Covid-19 and will put in place measures for their protection from the pandemic.
Research is underway to establish efficacy of vaccines on children between three and 17 years as well as pregnant women in the country. Other countries such as China are already inoculating minor children while the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released guidelines certifying the vaccines safe for use by everyone above the age of 17, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Children below 18 years, pregnant and breastfeeding women were not being vaccinated as there were fears the drug could have adverse effects on the unborn and lactating babies. New studies have certified the vaccines on these groups and Government is carrying localised research to establish whether minors and pregnant women can be jabbed.
Last week health authorities in Matabeleland North said 110 pregnant women had been isolated at three hospitals after they tested positive to Covid-19. No pregnant women has so far succumbed according to health officials.
Addressing health stakeholders at a meeting held at Hwange Colliery Hospital last week, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said no child should die from the virus.
He implored health officers and interested parties to be ready for rollout of inoculation of children and pregnant women once all necessary procedures are completed and it’s certified that they can be vaccinated.
Health officials have said they have been informally getting inquiries from communities that are concerned about safety of children in schools saying having teachers as the only vaccinated individuals will not ensure herd immunity in class and whole institution.
“Studies are going on but we are almost certain we will inject children between three and 17 years. Let’s be ready because we want to see all children being safe when schools open. Children should not die from this disease,” said Dr Mangwiro.
Schools were scheduled to open on 28 June for the second term but have remained closed following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.
On Saturday, Zimbabwe had recorded 3 490 Covid-19 related deaths while cumulative cases had reached 107 490 since the first case was detected in Victoria Falls in March last year. Dr Mangwiro said other countries are already experiencing the fourth wave and Zimbabwe must be wary about it. He challenged all citizens including the media to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“For the kids between three and 17, we are still going through our studies that have been done by Sinovac. Once we have clear details and understanding between paediatricians who are specialists and ourselves and Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe, we might then tell the nation of what we are going to do later-on because we always have a policy to make sure we scrutinise whatever we are going to give to the people and understand the detail via our own scientists,” said Dr Mangwiro.
“As for pregnant women, those will be clarified once we get every data together. There is a difference, if it’s done somewhere, as a country we need to be very clear and look at our population. We are a sovereign state and we need to be clear at what we give to our people so they are safe. So it’s important that we are going through this.”
Bulawayo Director of Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda also said vaccination of pregnant women was safe.
“There has been a spike in the number of pregnant women who tested positive for Covid-19 this week hence I encourage all women to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their unborn babies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Mangwiro said the country has fully paid for 12 million doses which are being delivered in batches. Internationally other countries are rolling out the vaccination of children. The United States is immunising children between 12 and 15, and expects to have enough safety data to go even below those ages next year.
The European Commission has authorised Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, paving the way for a broader rollout in the European Union after similar clearances in the United States and Canada.
Moderna is seeking a green light for using its Covid-19 vaccine for teens as young as 12 in the EU, United States and Canada, as Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot is already being administered across the regions. Pfizer is now planning to test its vaccine on children aged between five to 11 years, while China has approved Sinovac Biotech’s (SVA.O) shot for emergency use in children as young as three.
The new Covid-19 strain, referred to as the Delta variant has also been detected in children, with some of them dying after getting the virus in other countries.
On Friday, Zimbabwe recorded 1 834 new Covid-19 cases, while 69 people succumbed to the virus.
According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 757 people are hospitalised in health institutions around the country, with 212 recorded as asymptomatic, 412 mild to moderate, 97 severe and 36 in intensive care units (ICU).
While there are 29 438 active cases, there were also 1 168 recoveries recorded. The national recovery rate stands at 69 percent.
In total, Zimbabwe has recorded 107 490 Covid-19 cases with 3 490 deaths.
On Friday, 30 218 people received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines, bringing the total number of those that have received at least one jab to 1 623 874. Meanwhile, 21 109 people received their second dose and so far, 751 487 people have been fully vaccinated.