Old Mutual cast doubts on Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 vaccination targets

By  Bernard Mpofu

Leading investment group, Old Mutual says Zimbabwe may take longer than expected to vaccinate most of its population against Covid-19 and reach herd immunity because of resistance against vaccines.

In February Zimbabwe began rolling out its vaccination programme as part of government’s measures to reduce the severity of the disease.

When the immunisation programme begun, there was a lot of resistance because of lack of information about the vaccines and misinformation.

Experts say Zimbabwe needs to vaccinate 10 million out of its nearly 16 million strong population to achieve herd immunity. 

Old Mutual, which owns some of the biggest companies in Zimbabwe’s financial services sector cast doubts about the government’s targets of vaccinating 60 percent of the population by the end of the year.

“A little over 1.5 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac and Siphopharm vaccines and the Indian Covaxin vaccines were received during the quarter,” Old Mutual said in its first quarter report for 2021. 

“The country is targeting to inoculate a total of 10 million people or 60% of the population to achieve herd immunity. 

“The vaccines roll out programme has been slow mainly due to resistance by some members of society and the global supply constraints for the jabs. 

“It is likely to take longer to reach the targeted vaccinations.”

Myths and misconceptions about Covid –19 vaccines were mainly fuelled by fake news shared on online platforms.

The World Health Organisation has been trying to counter the ‘infodemic’ around Covid-19 to encourage more people to take the vaccines.

Experts say the herd immunity threshold is generally achievable only with high vaccination rates, and many scientists had thought that once people started being immunised enmasse, herd immunity would permit society to return to normal. 

Most estimates had placed the threshold at 60–70% of the population gaining immunity, either through vaccinations or past exposure to the virus. 

But as the pandemic enters its second year, the thinking has begun to shift. 

In February, independent data scientist Youyang Gu, changed the name of his popular Covid-19 forecasting model from ‘path to herd immunity’ to ‘path to normality’. 

Youyang said that reaching a herd-immunity threshold was looking unlikely because of factors such as vaccine hesitancy, the emergence of new variants and the delayed arrival of vaccinations for children.

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