By Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Violet Badze, a nurse with over two decades of experience in public health services, did not hesitate to take her first shot of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
"This is not my first time to be vaccinated. We received cholera, typhoid, tetanus vaccines before. This is not the first time, and we know we are being protected," she told Xinhua after receiving the jab.
Badze is the acting matron at Beatrice Infectious Hospital in Harare and was one of the first medical workers to receive the vaccine at Wilkins Hospital in the capital Harare on Feb. 18.
"I feel very happy," she said.
"As a frontline worker I interact with patients, so I am very happy that I am protected, although I will continue observing required preventative measures," she added.
Badze said being at the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic, health workers in Zimbabwe have embraced the vaccine.
Zimbabwe kicked off its first phase of the COVID-19 inoculation program on Thursday using the Sinopharm vaccine which was donated to the county by the Chinese government.
The vaccination will be done in three phases, starting with frontline workers at high risk.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the health minister, was the first person in the country to receive the vaccine, signaling the start of the country's vaccination program.
Speaking to the press after receiving the jab, Chiwenga urged Zimbabweans to have confidence in the vaccines.
"My ministry conducted all scientific processes to ascertain the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine which was confirmed to be 79 percent," said Chiwenga.
"I have received the COVID-19 vaccine jab together with my deputy minister and my staff, therefore I urge all Zimbabweans to be vaccinated at their nearest health center," he said.
Apart from the 200,000 vaccines donated by China, Zimbabwe is expecting delivery of an additional 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines it purchased from China.
Addressing mourners at the burial of national hero Moses Mpofu at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on Saturday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the vaccines which the country received from China were safe and effective.
"All of us, including myself as the President, Cabinet Ministers and all officials will be vaccinated. So should you, my dear Zimbabweans, if we are to protect ourselves, our families and our nation," he said.
Mnangagwa said this would be the only way for the country to return to normalcy with children going back to school and businesses re-opening.
Several prominent Zimbabweans have also embraced the vaccine program, urging the public to be vaccinated.
Michael Chideme, Harare City Council spokesperson, said being inoculated was a huge relief.
"I am actually feeling relieved because I have taken a decision to protect my health, so I am happy I have done it, and I am happy to come and take the second dose after 28 days," he told Xinhua after being vaccinated.
Lenon Gwaunza, a prominent neuroscientist rubbished the conspiracy theories about the vaccine that are being spread on social media.
"I am definitely taking the Sinopharm vaccine. It's safe and there are reports of efficacy from various countries.
"Forget the geopolitics, the basic science is solid, it's safe and there are reports of efficacy," he said on Twitter.
Celebrities including musicians have also welcomed the national COVID-19 vaccination program.
Popular singer and dancer Sandra Ndebele said that she was more than ready to be vaccinated.
"I want it and I have been patiently waiting for it. We thank the government for the job well-done. We are tired of staying at home doing nothing," Ndebele said in an interview on Saturday.
Zimbabwe is currently under a COVID-19 national lockdown, and artists have been hit hard since their livelihoods depend on public shows.
Churches and religious groups have also hailed the government's efforts in taming the pandemic.
In a statement last week, the Zion Christian Church, one of Zimbabwe's largest indigenous churches, welcomed the vaccination drive.
"We welcome any efforts and measures to bring normalcy back to our nation and fully support the view that any death due to this virus is one death too many.
"We also welcome the government position that, though essential, the vaccination will be voluntary and urge the Health Ministry to carry out a concerted education campaign to convince those who are hesitant about the safety benefits of getting vaccinated," reads part of the statement.
The Zimbabwean government is targeting to vaccinate 10 million people free of charge on a voluntary basis to achieve herd immunity.
More COVID-19 vaccines are expected in the country until the required quantities are achieved.
In addition to the Sinopharm vaccine, Zimbabwe is in advanced negotiations to acquire the Sputnik V vaccines from Russia.
Mnangagwa on Friday said the country will also receive a donation of 75,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from India.
More vaccines are also being sourced from the World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme.
China and Zimbabwe enjoy cordial bilateral ties, and China has offered a helping hand to Zimbabwe's fight against the pandemic since the onset of the virus in the country last March.
To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 35,768 cases of COVID-19, including 1,432 deaths. Enditem