USAID’S COVID-19 Task Force Executive Director Jeremy Konyndyk says the agency has been very impressed with Zambia’s COVID-19 vaccination performance.

Speaking during a media briefing after touring the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) office, Friday, Konyndyk, who was on a two-day mission to learn how Zambia was combating COVID-19, said if this country could be a model to Africa and the world on what was possible and achievable.

“We have been very impressed on this mission with Zambia’s performance on vaccination. So we will be out here as part of the global vaccination initiative, which is an initiative that the US government launched at the White House’s request back in December of last year to try and accelerate global vaccination coverage in countries that were falling behind in the rest of the world. And what we are seeing here in Zambia in the last few days, we are really impressed. We were in Copperbelt, Ndola yesterday (Thursday), we visited vaccination sites. Today here in Lusaka we visited several vaccination sites, and if Zambia can keep the momentum that we have seen for the past few days, if Zambia can keep pushing forward in the vaccination process, I believe it can be a model to Africa and the world on what is possible and what is achievable,” he said.

“The western press, recently there have been a number of articles raising skepticism and casting doubt on whether or not Africa is truly committed to vaccination or [if the] vaccination rate coverage is really going to be achievable or not. What we have seen here, we are very convinced that it’s possible with the right support and right commitment, and some of the things that we see are really key to the progress and success that Zambia is experiencing.”

Konyndyk said the biggest obstacle to the COVID-19 vaccination programme was not hesitance or resistance, but access.

“What we can see from this visit is that the biggest obstacle to vaccination is not hesitance or resistance, it’s access. If Covid-19 [vaccines] can be made conveniently accessible to people; where they are, where they live their lives, if they can access vaccination in a way that it’s not disrupted, people will get it. They might need sensitisation, some education, they may have some questions but if it’s convenient people will get vaccinated. People want those questions to be answered, not by someone coming from America or even by an NGO they are not familiar with, they want to have answers by someone they know,” he said.

“This is a winnable fight, it’s a fight you are winning right now here in Zambia, and with the US government, we stand in solidarity with you. The US government has committed a total of 59 million dollars to support Covid activities in Zambia including, recently 28 million dollars toward the vaccination for the global vaccination initiative. And we have also made available as many doses of vaccines as Zambia may need.”

And CIDRZ Deputy Chief Executive officer Emmanuel Qua-Enoo said their project would not have been possible without the additional funding from USAID towards the COVID-19 response.

“Lastly, the USAID additional fund towards Covid-19 response has provided for the increased access to genomic sequencing. Through this funding, the project is supporting system strengthening in next generation sequencing at the tropical diseases research center (TDRC) housed at Ndola Teaching Hospital in the Copperbelt Province. The project is supporting the procurement of reagents for genomic sequencing as well as procurement of equipment for sequencing. It has embarked on a procurement of various supplies worth five million kwacha and to top it off, CIDRZ through this project has committed to support TDRC to improve the transportation of samples from the health facilities to the laboratory. This work would not have been possible without the additional funding from USAID towards the Covid-19 response. We are extremely grateful for this generous gesture,” said Qua-Enoo.