Long Distance and Unavailability of Health Centres Disrupt Mat North’s COVID-19 Vaccination Rollouts

A perennial lack of access to health facilities is proving costly with many residents desiring COVID-19 vaccination failing to get it.

Shattered by the unavailability of nearby health centres and affordable transport costs, some Matabeleland North Province residents have failed to get their first vaccination doses for COVID-19.

People from Tsholotsho, Lupane, Nkayi, Hwange, Binga, Umguza and Bubi say the issue of long-distance and poor road networks led to many of them failing to get their first jabs which were open to the elderly, schoolteachers, religious leaders, security forces, and people with chronic diseases.

Mzomutsha Hlatshwayo (58) from Mthoniselwa village in Nkayi was one of the befitting beneficiaries but failed until the province ran out of vaccines.

“Our roads are extremely bad and going to Nkayi main hospital meant that we were supposed to use a scotch cart as our village only has one bus that uses the route to Sembewule in the far north of Nkayi,” says Hlatshwayo.

He suffers from a kidney related ailment and sitting or walking for too long, fuels his condition.

“The message came in April towards month-end, but the bus was coming from Sembewule fully loaded and using a scotch cart due to my condition failed me, so l think l will try to get vaccinated if they bring these vaccines close to where we are at the Gonye clinic.”

Mutoli Siansali (59) from Nsungwale village in Binga North has a similar experience to that of Hlatshwayo.

“We were told by our children that a message had been sent from the health officials (Ministry of Health and Child Care) that we need to visit our hospital (Binga) to get vaccinated but that could not be possible as there are no daily busses that ply through our villagers.”

“Even getting the money to travel a distance of over 80 kilometres is impossible looking at our socio-economic way of life, so many of us have not benefited from this scheme except our children who are currently being vaccinated from the school against typhoid so for us, we will have to wait until they give us a way forward.”

The new typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) set to protect children aged below 15 years from typhoid is a programme being rolled out by health authorities in conjunction with the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry.

Nsungwale village’s local clinic wa affected by the 2020 February floods, since then, nothing much has been done to revive it.

Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Munekayi Padingani, the issue of distance is not something that they have looked into as people in hard to reach areas should find their own way of reaching hospitals.

“We are not having that kind of problem or complaints now because these people find their own way to reach the hospitals,” he says.

“I currently do not have the exact figures of people who have vaccinated in the province, but most of our numbers were drawn from Victoria Falls which had over 80 per cent of its residents coming through to be inoculated,” he added.

“We will see when we get to phase three if they’ll be need for outreach then we shall make a way.”

The province stopped the administration of the first Sinovac vaccine to every befitting resident due to the unavailability of the vaccine.

Moe than a million doses of vaccines from China have been procured by the government via donations and purchase. At the beginning of June, hundreds of citizens were turned away at Wilkins hospital after a shortage of vaccines, in some parts of Mtabeleland, some say they had been “referred to Harare” for vaccination.

The first phase of Zimbabwe’s vaccination campaign, which relied on Sinopharm, targeted front-line workers such as health care workers, border officials, gravediggers, and journalists.

The Zimbabwean government hopes to inoculate at least 60% of the country’s 14 million people by the end of the year. Since the beginning of the first phase in February, a health ministry report noted that just over 688 696 and 385 275 people had received their first and second dose vaccinations as of June 7.

On the same date, the Epidemiology department in the health ministry further reported that Zimbabwe had recorded 39 238 coronavirus cases with 1 611 deaths and 39 238 recoveries.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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