Zimbabwe Joins Growing Number of African Countries Rejecting Vaccines

Zimbabwe’s government on Sunday rejected an African Union donation of three million doses of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson “citing lack of storage facilities” for the shots, the online newspaper New Zimbabwe reported on Monday.

The secretary of Zimbabwe’s finance ministry, George Guvamatanga, turned down the donation in a letter addressed to the African Export-Import Bank seen by New Zimbabwe on July 4. Guvamatanga’s letter to the pan-African finance institution, created with assistance from the African Development Bank Group, reads:

The government of Zimbabwe notes that there is an allocation of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines for August 2021. However, I wish to advise that the government of Zimbabwe is not yet ready to participate in the August allocation as measures are still being put in place to establish the cold chain management framework for the vaccines, as well as on management of the anticipated adverse effects of the vaccines following inoculation.

Therefore, we will advise of our readiness to receive the vaccines once our internal processes have been conducted, hopefully in time for next allocation. I wish to restate the government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to participate in Africa Union Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccination programme which the bank is supporting.

The African Union (A.U.) organized the now-scrapped vaccine deal with Zimbabwe. The transaction was part of a greater African Export-Import Bank agreement to pay for the distribution of 220 million doses of Chinese coronavirus vaccines among A.U. member states.

Zimbabwe’s government “is currently using China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccine [candidate]s both from China, as well as Sputnik V from Russia and India’s AstraZeneca,” for its Chinese coronavirus inoculation drive, New Zimbabwe reported on July 5.

Zimbabwe joins a number of other African nations that have either rejected or failed to use donated Chinese coronavirus vaccines in recent months. Malawi’s government burned nearly 20,000 expired doses of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine developed by the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in May.

The A.U. donated 102,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Malawi on March 26 through a program led by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). Malawi’s government had little time to distribute the shots, however, as the batch expired less than three weeks after its arrival in Malawi on April 13. Malawi’s health ministry managed to administer 80 percent of the 102,000-dose vaccine batch before it expired. The East African country’s government burned the leftover doses from the batch to prove to the Malawian public that it was not using expired vaccines moving forward.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s government announced in late April plans to return 1.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to the United Nations (U.N.) after failing to finalize a formal plan to distribute the inoculations.

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