Harare – The Government of Zimbabwe has declined Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the United Kingdom, saying it does not have capacity to store and distribute the drugs.
South Africa this past week announced it was destroying two million J&J vaccines due to “contamination”.
In a letter to the African Export-Import Bank this week, Zimbabwe’s Secretary for Finance Mr George Guvamatanga said: “The Government of Zimbabwe notes that there is an allocation of Johnson and Johnson vaccines due for August. However, I wish to advise that the Government of Zimbabwe is not ready to participate in the August allocation as measures are still being put in place to establish the cold chain management of the anticipated adverse effects of the vaccines following inoculation.
“Therefore, we will advise of our readiness to receive the vaccines once our internal processes have been concluded, hopefully in time for the next allocation.”
Zimbabwe has been rolling out an internationally lauded national vaccination drive on the basis of vaccines received from China, India and more recently Russia. The World Health Organisation, among others, has said Zimbabwe’s vaccine roll-out is a model for other countries as the nation has immunised more than one million people with at least one dose.
The country is using the Sinovac and Covaxin vaccines from China, and Russia’s Sputnik V, which was the first vaccine to be rolled out in the world.
Zimbabwe was to pay US$20.5 million for the three million J&J doses through a facility set up by the African Union and financially administered through Afreximbank.
The AU set up a deal under which Afreximbank would secure 220 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African countries.
Last week, , Zimbabwean Health Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro shot down claims that the refusal to accept J&J vaccines was politically motivated because of frosty bilateral ties between Harare and London.
“We will stick to what we are used to, such as Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V. They are stored at temperatures between two and eight degrees Celsius. Plus, once they are injected into a person, their weakened or deactivated viruses in them trigger protective immunity. That’s how we choose which vaccines to use here,” Dr Mangwiro explained.
Zimbabwe has received about 1.7 million vaccine since February this year.