President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa received the Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate “Coronavac” in public on Wednesday to help dispel vaccine “conspiracy theories” that the shot is unsafe.
President Mnangagwa received a dose of Coronavac at a tourist resort in Victoria Falls, located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, on March 24. The president’s injection was broadcast live on state-run TV. Mnangagwa was joined by a group of Zimbabwean opposition leaders at the event who received doses of Coronavac alongside him. The event was designed to demonstrate the vaccine candidate’s safety to Zimbabweans, who have generally been reluctant to participate in Zimbabwe’s coronavirus vaccine drive since it launched on February 18.
“I therefore challenge all of us in our respective communities to accept the vaccination program and to shun vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and the negative conspiracy theories,” Mnangagwa said before receiving his dose of the product.
“Just over 44,000 people in Zimbabwe have been vaccinated so far, representing 68 percent of the target population for the first phase,” Mnangagwa said later at the event.
A cellphone accessory shop worker in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, explained to Reuters on Wednesday why he has chosen not to receive a dose of Coronavac, the only Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate currently available in the country.
“I have heard that some people are falling ill after being vaccinated so my family and I will not do it. If I was meant to die I will just die when the time comes, this is not for me,” Blessward Makoni told the news agency.
Some health workers’ unions in Zimbabwe say the federal government has inadvertently caused people to doubt the vaccine candidate’s safety by failing to provide sufficient information about the shot to the public.
China’s state-run biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech developed Coronavac. The shot demonstrated an efficacy rate of just 50.38 percent against the Chinese coronavirus according to late-stage clinical data. At least nine people – almost all age 60 or over – have died in Hong Kong over the past month shortly after receiving doses of Coronavac through the city government’s coronavirus vaccination program.
At least ten people have suffered from temporary facial paralysis after they were administered Coronavac, while several others were admitted to intensive care units for various health incidents shortly after receiving the shot. Coronavac’s use in people age 60 and over is currently banned in China due to safety concerns, but Hong Kong health authorities waived health requirements to allow its use among senior citizens in the city last month.