Home Editors' Pick Vaccine Tourism: A new type of Zim-SA foreign relations

Vaccine Tourism: A new type of Zim-SA foreign relations

by commuadmin

Raymond Zarurai

South Africa is the most Covid-19 affected country in Africa, with more than 1.92 million infections by the end of June 2021 and almost 60 000 deaths. Within six months, the coveted country has had to deal with the Beta variant and now with the most transmissible Delta variant.

Vaccination is in progress. Since January, only close to 2% of the population in South Africa has been fully vaccinated. The authorities have cleared the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as their choice of dose against the virus. Vaccine access in Africa has been affecting the pace of most countries to reach their vaccination targets.

The vaccination pace in South Africa has drawn other members of the public and Economic Freedom Fighters party to stage protests demanding the authorities to speed up the vaccination process. The opposition party also want the Chinese and Russian manufactured vaccines to be added to the two vaccines already in use.

“Our agenda is simple, give our people vaccines, we want to open our economy,” said EFF leader Julius Malema during the protests. “We need more vaccines from different countries. Saphra is supposed to approve these,” he added. Malema further made allegations that the authorities were making underhand dealings for self-benefits in approving and acquiring vaccines.

Despite the delays by Saphra to decide on the administration of the Chinese and Russian vaccines in South Africa, some citizens have been travelling to Zimbabwe specifically for Covid-19 inoculation. Especially those who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated in their home country.

Back in May, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country will not deter any foreign national from being vaccinated for humanitarian reasons. “This is a human element, we cannot deny anybody the vaccine, but if you are not Zimbabwean we will give you the vaccine at a cost,” he said.

Interestingly, Zimbabwe is largely using Chinese vaccines and recently started using the Indian and Russian jabs. This shows how much citizens in South Africa are keen on getting vaccinated as the country is now reeling against a third wave.

Zimbabwean authorities have approved some private players to administer the vaccine to paying foreigners. A privately owned hospital in Harare, HealthPoint Hospital is one of the authorized points to offer vaccination services to foreigners at a price premium.

Reports indicate that Zimbabwean vaccination is not only attracting tourists from South Africa. Tourists in Victoria Falls are welcoming the vaccination drive. Vaccination at this pace and strategy is a welcome move by the tourism industry thrown into shambles by the pandemic.

However, the civic society in Zimbabwe has raised concerns over vaccine tourism. Even though the local vaccination drive is looking promising, there is still a persisting global shortage of doses which might deprive local citizens of their right to the jab. Issues of priority were also raised as this strikes a gap between the poor and the rich, implying that those who pay a premium fee might have access than locals who are not paying.

Due to the rise of cases, Zimbabwe and South Africa have moved to enact lockdowns on level four.

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