by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, July 14 (Xinhua) -- At Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Zimbabwe's largest referral hospital and one of the country's vaccination centers, scores of people could not wait to receive their lifesaving jabs.
The country's vaccination drive had been marred by vaccine hesitancy since its launch in February, but the third pandemic wave that hits Zimbabwe has triggered the demand for vaccines.
Sekesai Kazangarara, who had come to receive her first shot, said while she was hesitant to receive the jab when the vaccination was opened to the general public, the fear of getting sick if infected drove her to get the vaccine as soon as she could.
Zimbabwe stepped up its vaccination drive after receiving its biggest consignment of Sinovac shots last Thursday.
On Tuesday, 43,671 people were vaccinated, the highest number on a daily basis since the vaccine rollout began earlier this year. The country is targeting 100,000 daily vaccinations to achieve herd immunity by year-end. To date, 955,656 people have received their COVID-19 jabs, according to Ministry of Health data.
Like much of the southern Africa region, Zimbabwe is battling a third wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant and the cold season in the southern hemisphere.
The highest rate of daily infections was seen on Tuesday, with 2,845 new positive cases recorded in 24 hours.
The country also recorded 38 deaths on the same day, raising the national death toll to 2,274.
With cases skyrocketing, so has been the number of people seeking to receive their jabs.
Health experts have attributed the rush for vaccines to fear, as infection data has shown that most of the people who are falling seriously ill after contracting the virus are unvaccinated.
While the vaccination drive has taken a huge leap, the sheer numbers seeking the shots have seen vaccination centers being overwhelmed.
At Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Janet Maziba Gome, a farmer from Mazoe, a farming area near Harare, had traveled to the city to receive her jab but was told that she might not receive her jab on that day since a limited number of people could be served.
"I am a farmer, I have come here so that I can protect myself, my family, and my employees, so if I fail to get my jab today that will be a huge blow to my plans as a farmer and for my employees," she said.
Tariro Katsikadova is one of many people who were patiently waiting to receive their vaccines.
He said there has been a hunger for vaccines following a sharp surge in cases, and the rollout is failing to keep pace.
"But the problem that I have here is that I have been coming here for the past 5 days but I haven't been able to receive my jab.
"I was here early in the morning by 7 o'clock because we are not permitted to move during curfew hours, so since morning, from 7 o'clock up to midday we haven't received our jabs and we are being told that we may not get vaccinated today," he said.
Katsikadova urged authorities to speed up the vaccination process and open more vaccination centers to ensure that herd immunity can be reached by year-end.
Zimbabwe started a mass vaccination program in February with a target to inoculate 60 percent of its approximately 15 million people by year-end.
The country has so far been mainly using two Chinese vaccines - Sinopharm and Sinovac - to inoculate its population.
It has also taken delivery of small stocks of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine donated by a diamond mining company Alrosa, and India's Covaxin donated by the Indian government.
The country is expecting to have taken delivery of about 7 million vaccines by the end of July.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday extended a pandemic lockdown by a further two weeks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
During the two-week period, the government will target to vaccinate one million people. Enditem