JOHANNESBURG, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s health ministry has approved the use of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, it said on Monday, adding that the country aimed to achieve herd immunity by the end of December.
The ministry said in a statement that it had taken the decision after a recommendation from specialist paediatricians and was still considering whether to vaccinate younger children.
“All the provinces, secondary schools, colleges, universities and vaccination centres are hereby required to commence the vaccination campaign of this age group with immediate effect,” the minister said.
A growing number of countries have approved, or are considering approving, COVID-19 vaccinations for children and adolescents.
Neighbouring South Africa, for example, is already administering shots to those aged 12 and over as it looks to ramp up the level of COVID-19 protection within its population.
Zimbabwe said the Sinovac shot would be the only vaccine eligible for use on teenagers. The country has predominately used Sinovac and another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, in its vaccination campaign so far.
The country’s medicines authority had only registered vaccines from China, Russia and India until it approved J&J’s vaccine for emergency use in July.
The health ministry said Zimbabwe was determined to reach herd immunity by the end of the year and that 38% of the targeted population had been vaccinated by the end of October.
The country has recorded 132,926 cases of COVID-19 and 4,675 deaths overall.
(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by David Clarke)