Local health experts have urged the government to first establish the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines against regional variants of the disease before acquiring the jabs.
This comes after South Africa temporarily halted the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines after data indicated that the vaccines gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president, Enock Dongo said the government should invest part of the US$100 set aside for the purchase of vaccines in research to determine the local coronavirus strain. He said:
It is important to realise the fact that when vaccines are manufactured, they are targeting the variant that was first discovered when the pandemic broke out.
They are meant for people’s bodies to resist that variant. So, what this means is that the more a virus changes its characteristics, the less efficient the vaccine can become.
Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), secretary-general, Aaron Musara, said health authorities should prioritise genetic typing of the local variants, before accepting vaccines. He said:
News coming out of South Africa shows that some vaccines are less efficient against the new variant.
This is not to say that vaccines have become useless but highlights the importance of local surveillance.
In this regard, we urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to prioritise genetic typing of the local variants, before accepting vaccines which have not been tested in our region.
Meanwhile, the director for epidemiology and disease control in the ministry of Health, Portia Manangazira, said vaccines could be effective despite the coronavirus continuously changing its characteristics.