Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga.

HARARE– Zimbabwe is strengthening its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts amid a slowdown in vaccine uptake.

Speaking at a press briefing in Harare on Sunday, Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga said the southern African country was facing vaccine uptake challenges that needed urgent attention. 

“To address these challenges, the government in collaboration with all stakeholders plans to conduct a mass vaccination campaign blitz” aiming to vaccinate all those from age 12 and above, Chiwenga said. 

Last month, cabinet approved the administration of vaccines to children aged 12 years and above in a bid to ramp up inoculations and reach herd immunity to mitigate severe COVID-19 cases or deaths.

Chiwenga said the vaccination blitz will be conducted in two phases in the months of March, April and May. 

In addition, he said those eligible will get their first, second and third doses in both private and public health facilities, schools, workplaces, markets as well as outreach points across the country. 

Zimbabwe had set a goal to inoculate 60 percent of the eligible population by December 2021. 

Second dose vaccine coverage currently stands at 35 percent of the target population, one of the highest in Africa. 

The country kick-started its national vaccination program in February last year after receiving a batch of Sinopharm vaccines from China. 

To date, a total of 244,452 COVID-19 cases and 5,426 deaths have been recorded in the country.  – Xinhua