The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has backtracked on its intention to file a lawsuit against the government after Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga distanced himself from a recent statement by a Health ministry official suggesting that Zimbabwe was “blindly” administering the Sinopharm vaccine without the requisite clinical trials.
In a letter written on his behalf by Fortune Chimbaru, director of the civil division in the Attorney-General’s office, Chiwenga distanced the government from the utterances of acting permanent secretary Robert Mudyirandima that the authorities would conduct clinical trials to verify whether the Sinopharm vaccine would work on the South African variant.
“Our instruction so far is the alleged statement by the acting Permanent Secretary for Health does not reflect the official government position and it is not accurate pronouncement of the development process of the said vaccine,” reads part of the letter to ZLHR.
“The correct and official pronouncements relating to the vaccine were made by the Minister, the deputy minister and the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China,” further reads the letter.
ZLHR lawyer Andrew Makoni confirmed that the lawyers will not go ahead with the lawsuit and are waiting for a detailed letter from the government explaining the vaccination programme.
“There is no legal action as of now because government responded although they promised to give a detailed response,” Makoni said.
Upon taking delivery of 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, Mudyirandima stirred controversy suggesting the government was unsure if the Chinese shot worked on the South African variant.
“Government will be conducting clinical trials to verify whether the Sinopharm vaccine will work as when it was manufactured it was not tested against the variant coming out of South Africa. So, at the moment no one knows whether it works or does not work,” Mudyirandima told journalists.
His statements triggered a letter from ZLHR demanding clarity from the government and threatening a lawsuit.
ZLHR wrote to the government urging the authorities to assure the public of the safety of the vaccine following statements by the ministry official that during the rollout, tests would be conducted to measure the vaccine’s effectiveness on current mutations that include the South African variant.
ZLHR argued that the efficacy of the vaccine was questionable without undergoing quality control.
“It is therefore our client’s view that clinical trials precede the rolling out of the vaccination programme, the aim being to establish whether the vaccination drug undergoing trials is safe to administer and will not have adverse side effects,” reads the lawyers’ letter to the ministry of Health.
The lawyers argued that the clinical trials should not run concurrently with the actual vaccination programme and that results of the trials be made public before a mass rollout.
“Clinical trials cannot be conducted simultaneously with the actual vaccination of the population as the Acting Health Secretary appears to suggest. If that happens, many lives would be put at risk as they may be victims to irreversible side effects,” argued the lawyers.
On Wednesday, China pledged the donation of a further 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, while government is planning to take deliver of 600 000 shots next week.
According to the Finance ministry, the government has set aside US$100 million to purchase vaccines, as the country intensifies the fight against Covid-19.
Zimbabwe has seen a surge in infection cases since the Christmas holidays, recording more than 1 400 fatalities