The uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, particularly the third dose, has risen rapidly with 17 516 people taking their jabs since Wednesday last week after the decision by Cabinet to relax the mask requirement outdoors for those vaccinated thrice.
On Tuesday last week, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said noting the decrease in new Covid-19 infections, Cabinet resolved that those with three doses of the World Health Organisation recommended vaccines be exempted from mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public places. However, face masks will still be worn in indoor public places and on public transport.
Those with the three doses and not wearing their mask outdoors are required to carry their vaccination cards.
Since then the numbers seeking a third dose often exceed the combined numbers of those wanting first or second doses and always exceed the number in either of those categories. People have to wait six months after their second dose to go for the booster, but since there are well over 3 million people with two shots but not the third there are still a lot of people who can go for the third.
Initially, people were required to take two doses for them to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but following the coming in of more variants across the globe, scientists encouraged people to take booster jabs.
Other countries have administered two booster jabs while in Australia, severely immunocompromised people including those with cancer aged 16 years and above, were recommended to have a fifth dose ahead of winter.
It is against this background that in Zimbabwe, the Government has encouraged everyone to take up three doses, and even four, if they wish to.
While the Government is happy with the rise in the uptake of vaccination, it does not want to link the development to the partial relaxation of rules in the wearing of face masks.
In an interview yesterday, National Covid-19 response coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva, said: “We are happy that our vaccination numbers are increasing. That is what we have been pushing for and we will continue to push for it.
“When Cabinet made the decision on wearing of masks in public, it was also to try and encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Dr Mahomva encouraged more people to be vaccinated.
In separate interviews, some people that recently got their third doses said they had been encouraged by the latest Government decision.
Ms Tariro Hazangwi of Kuwadzana, who took her third dose last Thursday in Belvedere, Harare, said she opted to be vaccinated so that she could “at least walk freely without a mask”.
“I was excited when I read in the newspapers that mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public places was being relaxed if one had taken three vaccine shots.
“So I said let me go and get the third shot since we are now getting into the summer season and it will be very hot that a mask is uncomfortable,” said Ms Hazangwi.
Another Harare resident, Mr Petros Chimanye, said he took the third dose after a long time from the day he got the second dose.
“I had told myself that since new Covid-19 cases are declining, I will not take the third dose but I have changed my mind following the announcement by the Government that someone with three doses can go around without a mask in public except in closed places,” he said.
Mr Wellington Bakasa, who took his third dose on Friday, encouraged more people to be vaccinated “so that it becomes safer for those without masks”.
Mrs Rudo Sadziwa added that if everyone that has taken two doses so far was to go for the third dose, “then the Government may completely remove the requirement to wear masks even in closed places”.
“In many countries people are no longer wearing masks even in shops because of high numbers of people that have been vaccinated. I, therefore, urge all those that are eligible for the vaccine to take the three doses so that we return to normal completely,” she said.
At Belvedere Poly Clinic, there has been a considerable queue of people wanting to take their third doses since Wednesday last week.
The situation was reportedly the same at most vaccination centres as people filed to get their third dose while those that had taken the first only, were getting their second with the hope of returning in six months for the third dose.
On Tuesday last week, the day that Government announced the masks waiver for those with three doses, 1 520 people received their first dose, 1 111 received their second dose while 1 819 got their third dose.
But from Wednesday, the numbers started to surge, with 3 743 receiving the first dose, 2 891 getting their second dose while 4 174 received their third dose.
On Thursday, 1 057 people received the first dose, 1 470 got their second dose with 2 135 receiving their third dose.
On Friday, 1 627 people received their first dose while 1 536 got their second dose with 5 139 receiving their third dose.
Since the start of the vaccination drive, weekends have tended to produce lower numbers but last Saturday, 2 161 people received their first dose, 1 841 got their second dose while massive 4 838 received their third dose.
On Sunday, 365 people received their first dose bringing the cumulative figure for first dose to 6 401 018, while 416 got their second dose bringing the total for second dose to 4 761 840, with a significant 1 230 receiving their third dose, bringing the cumulative for third dose to 979 244.
New infections continue to fall, with only four recorded on Sunday after 429 tests conducted, leaving the country with 141 active cases.
As of Sunday, Zimbabwe has recorded 256 628 cases, 250 895 recoveries and 5 592 deaths.
Zimbabwe has been commended by global institutions including the World Health Organisation over the way it handled the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many critics in and outside Zimbabwe, expected a catastrophe, judging by the impact of the pandemic in Europe and the United States which have the best medical care globally.
Since the first case was detected in Zimbabwe on March 20, 2020, the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has been revamping healthcare infrastructure resulting in new clinics and hospitals being constructed while existing ones have been thoroughly upgraded.Herald