Zambia sets out plans to vaccinate all people over 18 against COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled "Astra Zeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia announced plans on Thursday to vaccinate all people over 18, or 46% of the 18.3 million population, against COVID-19 as it prepares for a third wave of the pandemic.

The southern African country has registered more than 87,000 cases of COVID-19 and the death toll from the disease is more than 1,000.

Health Minister Jonas Chanda said health workers, the police, security officers, teachers and the clergy would be among those given priority in the vaccination campaign.

Cross-border traders, bus and truck drivers, and people over 65 - including those with chronic illnesses and their care givers - would also be prioritised, he said.

Over 3.6 million people will be vaccinated without charge under the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme backed by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance for poor and middle-income countries, and will receive the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots.

“It will be done on a voluntary basis,” Chanda said.

The remainder - more than 4.7 million people - will be covered by the government with support from other governments and donors using a basket of vaccines, Chanda said.

Chanda said the vaccination drive was expected to ease the impact of a third wave of COVID-19 that is expected around June and July.

Zambia had delayed setting out a plan for the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines because it needed to make sure the vaccines were safe and efficacious, Chanda said.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Timothy Heritage