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U-turn on Zimbabweans having to pay for COVID-19 vaccine

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has backtracked on his statement that the coronavirus vaccine will not be free for the country’s citizens, reports Anadolu Agency. In an interview with the State online broadcaster, the Zimpapers Television Network, Ncube had said only health workers and most vulnerable citizens will get free COVID-19 vaccine jabs, with “private citizens" paying between $2 and $7.

After being criticized by citizens on social media platforms, the country’s treasury boss said: “All donated vaccines will be free.”

“It has come to my attention that my comments of the payment of the COVID-19 vaccine have been taken out of context. I would like to make it clear that the vaccines that the Government of Zimbabwe is procuring with the support of our international partners and friends, will be made available for free to the citizens of Zimbabwe,” Ncube is quoted in the report as saying.

During the interview Ncube said the country’s vulnerable groups will be vaccinated for a free while “private citizens will pay to receive a shot so that government can recoup its costs.” Ncube did not, however, clarify who “private citizens” are.

“We want to cover the entire population. So really paying something for the vaccine by private citizens is very important so that we can cover those who cannot afford it at all,” Ncube had earlier said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government is holding talks with Russia and China for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, which cost between US$2.50 and US$7 a shot, according to the country's director of epidemiology and disease control, Portia Manangazira.

Civil society activist, Claris Madhuku, who heads the Platform for Youth Development, is quoted in the report as saying: “I can smell a rat; there could be elements in the regime already targeting to reap profits from the vaccine and for this, citizens are now being told they must pay.”

 

Ncube had said government would only cater for frontline workers and the most vulnerable members of society. A report on the News24 site notes that he added that the vaccines would be cheaper than private protective equipment (PPE) that is widely available. “There will be some payment model so that government can recoup the cost of procurement,” he said.

Exiled former Minister Jonathan Moyo questioned the logic of making people pay and at the same time targeting to achieve herd immunity.

And lawyer Alex Magaisa believes corrupt government officials will count themselves first among ‘the most vulnerable members of society’.

The report says Zimbabwe is among 13 developing countries set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from China.

 

[link url="https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/zimbabwe-govt-backtracks-on-selling-covid-19-vaccine/2134309"]Full Anadolu Agency report (Open access)[/link]

 

[link url="https://www.news24.com/fin24/economy/world/outrage-as-zim-asks-citizens-to-pay-for-covid-19-vaccine-themselves-20210204"]Full report on the News24 site[/link]

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