The first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility have arrived in the country from India.
Health Minister Jonas Chanda witnessed the arrival of the 228,000 Vaccines at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport today.
Dr. Chanda was accompanied his Permanent Secretary, Technical Services, Dr. Kennedy Malama, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, European Union Ambassador, Mr. Jacek Jankowski, British High Commissioner, Mr. Nicholas Wooley and Canadian High Commissioner, Ms. Pamela O'Donnell.
Others included German Ambassador, Ms. Anne Wagner-Mitchell, Indian High Commissioner, Mr. N.J. Gangte, Japanese Ambassador, Mr. Ryuta Mizuuchi, Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Osamah Mohammed Krenshi, Swedish Ambassador, Ms. Anna Maj Hultgard and United States Charge D’ Affairs, Mr. David Young.
The Health Minister said the occasion was historic in the continued fight against the COVID - 19 pandemic in the country.
"This consignment consists of 228,000 Covishield (AstraZeneca) vaccine doses. I wish to emphasize that this is only the first consignment and others are vaccine doses are expected in the country in due course. I want to thank His Excellency Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia who has led Zambia’s COVID-19 Response as well as the COVID-19 vaccination Program. I want to thank Cabinet for unanimously supporting and approving the COVID-19 vaccination program, and the Zambian people who have remained patient as government guides on the vaccination programme.
"I am delighted that this milestone is the result of the collective and tireless efforts of many players who include Donors, Cooperating partners, our technical staff and many others. And I wish to acknowledge, from the outset, that your joining us this afternoon underscores your unwavering commitment to improving the health and well-being of the Zambian people , not only in the COVID-19 Response, but also in supporting provision of routine health services in Zambia, ' Dr. Chanda noted.
The Minister explained that Government made a firm and informed decision during the 4th Cabinet Meeting held on 24th March, 2021, to include the COVID-19 vaccination as an additional high impact tool in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said Cabinet approved a “Basket” of COVID-19 vaccines under 3 pillars as long as they met the safety and efficacy criteria.
Dr. Chanda said this was in order to ensure the prevention of further spread of COVID -19 and protecting people from severe disease and death.
"I also informed Parliament and the nation on 3rd February 2021, 7th April, 2021 and Friday 9th April 2021 on the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Zambia, and today’s arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, respectively.
As we are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a devastating health and socio-economic effects across the world and Zambia has not been spared having recorded 90,064 cumulative cases and 1,227 deaths as at today 12th April 2021.
As I have repeatedly stated in my previous addresses to the nation, The Government of the Republic of Zambia has resolved that the COVID-19 vaccination programme will be implemented in a cautious and phased up manner and on a voluntary and pilot basis, with medical confidentiality of vaccine recipients unless they so choose to disclose themselves (medical ethics)," he explained.
He said he was optimistic that all eligible adults over the age of 18 years would be vaccinated voluntarily in order to achieve (“Herd Community” and curb the transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the severity of disease cut down on hospital admissions, reduce the rate and have a positive impact on the socioeconomic status of the country.
He reiterated that the roll-out of the vaccination programme would be in line with the National Vaccine Deployment Plan which provided guidance on the prioritization criteria for the administration of the vaccines.
"The goal is to ensure that those that are most at risk receive the vaccination first.
The vaccines will be administered to all eligible persons above 18 years of age (8,438,118 0r 46% of the total population) beginning with our frontline health workers followed by other prioritized groups. I wish to reiterate that no one will be left behind. Over the next few days, the available vaccines will be distributed to all parts of the country.
"COVAX facility is free and will cover 20% of eligible adult population (3,676,791) while the remaining 26% (4,761,327) will be covered under pillars supported by donors, private sector and government.
I am aware of the myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines that have been taking their rounds on social and other media," the Minister added.
Dr. Chanda said as the country implements the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, pharmaceutical quality, safety and efficacy considerations remained critical for Zambia adding that there was in place a robust monitoring system being overseen by Ministry of Health and its Statutory Body, ZAMRA.
" On behalf of His Excellency, Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, The President of the Republic of Zambia, I place on record our profound appreciation to all of you, and assure that the Vaccination Programme will be conducted in a transparent and accountable manner to ensure that only safe and efficacious vaccines come into Zambia.
One again let me reiterate that as guided by Cabinet, Zambia’s COVID-19 Vaccination programme will be done in a cautious, phased-up manner and on voluntary and pilot basis. There will be Mandatory Vaccination.
I assure you that as a Ministry, we will not leave any stakeholder behind and already we have developed guidelines to steer participation of the Private sector and other non-state actors, as we deploy the vaccines across the country", he said.