HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda has cautioned that the COVID-19 vaccine is not a “silver bullet” that can eliminate the pandemic.

And Dr Chanda says the country has in the last 24 hours recorded 35 new COVID-19 cases with one death.

In a statement, Monday, Dr Chanda emphasised that all the COVID-19 vaccines brought in the country had gone through due diligence processes and were approved by the Global Health Authorities.

He noted that the vaccines were deemed to prevent severe disease and death but that those vaccinated would still have to adhere to the five golden rules of prevention.

“This afternoon Zambia also receives 228,000 doses initial consignment of Astra Zeneca vaccine alone and it is exciting that the process to enhancing the prevention and control of COVID-19 has begun. I must however caution that the vaccines are not the “silver bullet” that could eliminate COVID-19. It is important to note that the vaccines are deemed to prevent severe disease and death but before the majority of the eligible adult population is vaccinated and “Herd Immunity” attained, those vaccinated will still have to adhere to the five golden rules of prevention. It is imperative therefore, that we have over 80 percent of the target population (all aged 18 years and above) vaccinated to provide a good “heard immunity”. Furthermore, we must continue to adhere to the prescribed public health measures,” Dr Chanda said.

“There are still a lot of myths and miscommunication especially on social media platforms about the COVID-19 vaccination strategy. We call upon you all to rely only on official scientific information on the Ministry of Health and Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) websites. We re-emphasise that all the COVID-19 vaccines being brought in the country have gone through our due diligence processes and approved by the Global Health Authorities including the World Health Organisation and the Africa CDC on efficacy and safety before use here.”

He said his ministry was closely monitoring developments in other African countries which were currently administering COVID-19 vaccines.

“The COVAX initiative has so far delivered more than 60 million vaccine doses to 31 African countries. As of 25th March, Ghana had given out more than 470,000 of the 600,000 initial doses it received. Rwanda, which received under 400,000 doses, had administered more than 345,000 while Malawi has vaccinated more than 200,000 people. No severe adverse events have been reported so far from these countries. Altogether 35 African countries are currently administering COVID-19 vaccines and the Ministry of Health is closely monitoring developments in these countries,” Dr Chanda stated.

And speaking when they received the first batch of the COVID- 19 vaccines, Monday afternoon, Dr Chanda said those who were most at risk would receive the vaccine first.

“The government of the Republic of Zambia has resolved that the COVID-19 vaccination program will be implemented in a cautious and phased up manner and on a voluntary and pilot basis with medical confidentiality of vaccine recipients assured unless they so choose to disclose themselves. It is our hope as government that all eligible adults over the age of 18 will be vaccinated voluntarily in order for us to achieve herd immunity and curb the transmissions of coronavirus and reduce the severity of the disease, cut down on hospital transmissions and reduce the positive rate. The goal is to ensure that those most at risk receive the vaccination first,” he said.

“The vaccine will be administered to all eligible person above the age of 18 or 46 percent of the population beginning with our front line workers followed by other prioritised groups. I wish to reiterate that no one will be left behind as long as they are willing. Over the next few days, the vaccination will be distributed to all parts of the country where they are needed.”

Dr Chanda further said the cumulative number of COVID-19 confirmed cases recorded to date was 90,064.

“We recorded 35 new cases out of 3,371 tests conducted representing a positivity of 1 percent. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 90,064. The breakdown of the new cases and positivity (given in brackets) by province is as follows: Central 1 (0.6 percent), Copperbelt 0 (0 percent),Eastern 3 (2percent),Luapula 2 (1 percent), Lusaka 14 (1percent), Muchinga 0 (0 percent), Northern 2 (3 percent), North-western1 (5percent), Southern 12 (2percent), and Western 0 (0percent). One new COVID-19 death was reported in the last 24 hours,” he stated.

“The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date still stands at 1,227, classified as 685 COVID deaths and 542 COVID-19 associated deaths. 59 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 88,077 (98 percent). There are currently 760 active cases, of whom 703 (93percent) are under community management and 57 (8 percent ) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 43 (75 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 8 (14 percent) are in critical condition.”