By Tafara Mugwara, Zhang Yuliang
HARARE, March 28 (Xinhua) -- A month after the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine was administered in Zimbabwe, the country's inoculation drive is gaining momentum each passing day, with more than 65,000 people already received their first jabs of either Sinopharm or Sinovac doses from China, while more than 7,900 people received their second doses as of Saturday.
Wilkins Hospital in the capital Harare on Friday was abuzz with activity as people of all ages and diverse racial backgrounds thronged the facility to receive their first shots of the Sinopharm vaccine.
Zimbabwe's vaccination drive gained momentum on Wednesday when President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other prominent political leaders across the political divide received their first shots of the Sinovac vaccine during the launch of the second phase of the inoculation program in the resort city of Victoria Falls.
Wilkins Hospital is now attending more than 1,000 people daily.
People who spoke to Xinhua in Harare after receiving their first jabs expressed confidence that Chinese vaccines are providing some hope that the end of the global pandemic is approaching.
Sixty-five-year-old Deborah Birch, who has an underlying condition, was excited to have received her first jab.
"So the fact that I have got the vaccination, I feel so much relieved, and I feel free, yes I will still take precautions completely absolutely, but I don't feel as much endangered as I have been up to now," she told Xinhua shortly after receiving her shot.
Birch said before taking the shot she consulted her doctor who assured her that it was safe to do so.
"I am confident that I have taken the Chinese vaccine. In fact, my professor of gastroenterology told me that he likes this vaccine, the Chinese vaccine over any other because of the old school, the way they went about it, it's nothing new, it's tried and tested and safe," she said.
Isaac Bhunu, who also got his first shot, expressed gratitude to China for providing vaccines to Zimbabwe.
"China, as a country, assisted us when we were fighting for independence. This means it's providing us with safe remedies that can help us to survive, it cannot let us down, because we have come a long way together," he said.
Kudakwashe Ncube, who works in the education sector, could not contain her excitement after receiving her first jab.
"I was a bit skeptical about coming for the jab, I thought it was going to be very painful, it wasn't, it was just a prick and there is a lot that has been said about this jab, but coming here I have just seen that it's the best way to go, I have done it and I am really excited that I have taken this step," she told Xinhua.
While more Zimbabweans are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, speculation about the safety of the vaccine has been rife on social media platforms.
Trina Chadoka encouraged people to ignore the conspiracy theories about vaccines being spread online.
"I have just come for my first jab, and I really appreciate what the government has done for us. It seems things are going on well, just this speculation of the social media, I think they are all lies, things are happening and people should just come and do vaccination," she said.
Olga Bacar, who also received her first jab, said, "I would advise everyone to just get the vaccine, it's good for them."
Zimbabwe is currently in its second phase of the inoculation program.
While the first phase targeted frontline health workers, journalists, prison officers as well as ports and immigration officials, the second phase is targeting teachers, the clergy, members of the security sector, the elderly and people with chronic conditions, among other priority groups.
Epidemiologists estimate that up to 60 percent of the country will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
Zimbabwe launched the first phase of its vaccination drive on Feb. 18 after receiving its first batch of Sinopharm vaccines that were donated by China.
Last week, Zimbabwe also took delivery of another batch of Sinopharm vaccines donated by China, and an additional batch of Sinovac vaccines that it purchased from the Asian country.
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.
From providing funds to upgrade Wilkins Hospital, which is the main COVID-19 isolation and treatment center, to donating medical equipment and dispatching a medical team, China has always been at the forefront of fighting the pandemic in Zimbabwe. Enditem