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Zimbabwe orders vaccination of undocumented residents amid soaring Covid-19 infections

GOVERNMENT relaxed its Covid-19 vaccination requirements Thursday, ordering the immunization of the more than 300,000 undocumented residents who risked being left out of the campaign amid soaring infections.

This as authorities announced a milestone of 1 million first dose vaccinations after 47,506 shots were administered by the end of business – a daily record.

Instead of showing an ID or a valid passport, people without either form of identification can now produce a simple letter of area residency confirmation from their local leadership, health secretary Dr Jasper Chimedza said.

The policy shift came after concerns by human rights campaigners who worried that leaving out the stateless people – most of them descendants of immigrant workers from Malawi and Mozambique and victims of Gukurahundi massacres – would work against the government’s herd immunity target.

“All those who present themselves for vaccination without national identification cards or passport shall be vaccinated upon producing a letter from the headman, local councilor, or Member of Parliament confirming them as ordinarily resident in the area,” Chimedza said in a memo to vaccination centers.

He also addressed growing complaints about thousands of people spending hours in long, snail-paced vaccination lines only to be turned away without getting a shot as many centers are said to be dispensing a limited number of daily doses.

Chimedza ordered that “all people in a queue for vaccination before 1700 hours shall be vaccinated on the same day,” a measure designed to ramp up the fight against the resurgent virus, which killed 86 people on Thursday and infected 2,491 others.

Cumulative deaths climbed to 2,418 while cases shot to 78,872.

Hospitals and other vaccination centers are complaining about shortages of healthcare workers to administer shots, with Chitungwiza town pleading with government to beef up staff.

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Zimbabwe has now received 4.2 million coronavirus vaccines from purchases and donations from China and elsewhere after taking delivery of 2 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine last week.

Government says it’s targeting 10 million vaccinations by December – a long shot by any standard. ■

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