Zimbabwe opens COVID-19 vaccines to those aged 14 and older

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe is opening COVID-19 vaccinations to those aged 14 and older and is only permitting fully vaccinated people to eat in restaurants, to encourage more people to get shots, as a devastating wave of the disease recedes.

“On the advice of scientists,” Zimbabwe will start administering vaccines to children aged between 14 and 17, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced. The country is already offering shots to those 18 and older. This makes Zimbabwe one of the first countries in Africa to extend vaccinations to children.

The southern African country is beginning to see a reduction in numbers of infections and deaths following a deadly resurgence, driven mainly by the delta variant.

Schools, closed since early June, will reopen on Aug. 30 for students scheduled to take exams to graduate from primary school, high school, or college, while the rest of the pupils will return to class on Sept. 6, the information minister said after a Cabinet meeting.

Restaurants will be allowed to reopen for sit-in customers who show proof they are fully vaccinated, she said. The predominantly Christian country earlier this month allowed fully vaccinated people to congregate for prayers, part of measures to encourage people to accept being jabbed.

Close to 2.5 million Zimbabweans, about 16% of the population of 15 million, have received one dose, according to health ministry figures. More than 1.5 million people, or 10% percent of the population, are fully vaccinated. This makes Zimbabwe one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Africa, where less than 5% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people have received even one dose.

Zimbabwe “has already acquired” 13 million doses, mainly of China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, to meet its goal of vaccinating 10 million people, equivalent to about 66% of its population, said the information minister.

About 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Zimbabwe’s current surge are of unvaccinated people, according to health officials.

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