Card theft driving false vaccination stats – ZDI

By Nkosana Dlamini

Local think-tank, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) says government’s forced Covid-19 vaccination drive was leading the country to a “dummy herd immunity” as some citizens opposed to the exercise resort to buying stolen cards from corrupt health officials to fake taking the jab.

Zimbabwe is keen to inoculate at least 60 percent of the national population by end of this year to achieve the much-desired herd immunity.

To reach the target, government has intensified the procurement of the dose from abroad, coupled with continued threats of job and wage losses as well as a ban from accessing public services among citizens reluctant to take life-saving jab.

“Theft of Covid-19 vaccination cards at vaccination centres as reported in mainstream media is an indicator of a bad state of affairs in the health sector in as far remuneration of healthcare workers is concerned,” reads the report in part.

“These unfortunate incidences distort the county’s Covid-19 vaccination data and information and give a wrong impression on vaccination progress.”

ZDI, formed to generate and disseminate innovative ideas, cutting-edge research and policy analysis to advance democracy, also warned that government’s failure to address incapacitation of the country’s healthcare staff was turning out a “catalyst of corrupt activities across many health centres in Zimbabwe”.

Added ZDI, “The requirement of Covid-19 vaccination evidence in form of vaccination cards in some employment and leisure spheres has seen members of the public scrambling for vaccination cards without necessarily going through the normal and accepted vaccination process.

“Cases of Covid-19 vaccination cards’ theft and disappearance from vaccination centres have found their way into mainstream media in Zimbabwe.”

The public policy based think-tank said it has done enquiries into the administration of the dose where it noted that details of people buying Covid-19 vaccination cards are entered into the official vaccination database.

“There’s a risk of chasing a dummy Covid-19 herd immunity if the rot in the public health sector is not urgently addressed,” said the think-tank.

According to authorities, as of 4 October, 2021, a total of 3 117 895 people had received their first dose and 2 322 862 their second across the country.

This translates to a national coverage of 36.6% for the first dose and 27.2% for the second.

This comes amid a significant decline in the rate past few weeks.

The drop, said ZDI, was partly due to ack of a strategy by government “to break the existing rural-urban divide in terms of information and awareness on Covid-19 vaccination and the need to reach a target of herd immunity”.

The think-tank also called for the setting up of adequate vaccination centres in all parts of the country for ease of accessibility among communities.