MINISTRY of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says pregnant and breastfeeding women are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

And Health Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says the country has in the last 24 hours recorded 154 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

Speaking during a press briefing, Tuesday, Prof Mulenga disclosed that the trials which evaluated the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine did not include pregnant and breastfeeding women.

“The pregnant and breastfeeding women are not eligible. What it means is that the trials which evaluated the safety and efficacy of this vaccine did not include the pregnant and the breast feeding women. So we are not going to include this population for vaccination. However, if the woman feels the benefit for taking this vaccine is there as opposed to the risk, then they can do it on a voluntary basis as emphasised by the minister,” said Prof Mulenga.

And Dr Chanda said the country had recorded 154 new COVID-19 cases bringing the cumulative total to 90,218.

“We recorded 154 new cases out of 6,134 tests conducted representing a positivity of three percent. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 90,218. The breakdown of the new cases and positivity by province is as follows: Central 34 (5 percent), Copperbelt 14 (3 percent), Eastern 16 (4 percent), Luapula 12 (4 percent), Lusaka 19 (1 percent), Muchinga seven (10 percent), Northern 9 (1 percent), North-western 32 (25 percent), Southern 9 (1 percent), and Western 2 (1 percent),” he said.

“Two new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours from Lumezi and Mansa. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,229, classified as 687 COVID deaths and 542 COVID-19 associated deaths. 56 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 88,133 (98 percent). There are currently 845 active cases, of whom 789 (93 percent) are under community management and 56 (7 percent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 42 (75 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 7 (13 percent) are in critical condition.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda said the vaccination would be launched today (Wednesday).

He said health workers would be the first to be vaccinated followed by other priority populations most-at-risk.

“Yesterday (Monday) we received an initial consignment of 228,000 doses of AstraZeneca under the COVAX facility. The Zambia, COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign will be launched Wednesday April 14, 2021. As guided by Cabinet in the approved vaccine program for Zambia, the health workers who are leading the fight against COVID-19 will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by other priority populations most-at-risk. The frontline health workers must be protected so that they can manage those who have fallen prey to the coronavirus disease while managing COVID- 19 partners as well as other health ailments that continue to threaten the well-being of our population. We endeavour to ensure those on the frontlines are safe to strengthen the country’s preparedness ahead of the possible “third wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic in the cold season,” said Dr Chanda.

“We will also vaccinate those in charge of core societal functions like security personnel, teachers,Traditional leaders, Clergy, Immigration staff and mobile populations, Cross borders, Truck drivers, public transport staff. Those aged above 65years and/or with underlying co- morbidities and Political leaders. All consenting adults above 18 years of age in Zambia are targeted for vaccination, but this as indicated earlier will be done in a cautious, voluntary and phased up manner on a pilot basis. We will continue to update you on all the stages and processes of the campaign including sharing the detailed deployment/roll-out plan.”