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Catholic Priest in Zimbabwe Facilitating COVID-19 Vaccine Access to Vulnerable Persons

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A Catholic Priest serving in Zimbabwe’s Harare Archdiocese is facilitating COVID-19 vaccine access to vulnerable persons, including the elderly, through a vaccination center set up at the New Highfield Roman Catholic Church.

“I realized that most of the people in my community of New Highfield could not make it to Wilkins Hospital to get this vaccine,”  Fr. Clifford Nhetekwa has been quoted as saying.

In the Wednesday, August 18 news report, Fr. Nhetekwa says that some members in the community “were citing transport costs and the majority of the people are very old as Highfield is an old suburb.”

The Catholic Priest proceeded to contact officials of the Ministry of Health and Childcare to set up a mobile vaccination clinic that operates from the Catholic Parish.

“I approached the Ministry of Health and they said to me they have a mobile team that can go around and they came to my Parish for the sake of the old people and the transport,” the Zimbabwean Priest recounts in the report.

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Fr. Nhetekwa says he “brought in some nurses within the Parish for them to educate people about vaccines.”

“About 200 people per day are being vaccinated at New Highfield Roman Catholic Church in Harare,” the Cleric adds.

The initiative comes at a time when the government of Zimbabwe has authorized the reopening of places of worship as long as members are fully vaccinated and adhere to Covid-19directives during services.

On August 9, President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended the six-week lockdown by another two weeks, saying that despite a decline in cases, the number of reported deaths had remained high.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, a total of 1.9 million people have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Zimbabwe; more than 1 million have received their second jab.

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The Southern African nation aims to inoculate 10 million of its approximately 14 million people by the end of the year. As of August 18, the country had recorded at least 121,498 COVID-19 cases, including 4,181 deaths and 101,837 recoveries.

Following the government’s decision to allow public worship for those fully vaccinated, the Bishop of Zimbabwe’s Chinhoyi Diocese announced that those to participate in public worship in his Diocese will have received COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have received an invitation from the Government of Zimbabwe to reopen our Churches and begin to gather again for Church services yet on condition that the attendants be fully vaccinated,” Bishop Raymond Tapiwa Mupandasekwa said in a statement issued Tuesday, August 17.

The Zimbabwean Bishop added, “Only fully vaccinated priests will be allowed to celebrate (Holy) Mass with congregants.”

Bishop Mupandasekwa expressed the hope that the government will “give more guidance” on other specifics in view of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the Southern African nation.

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He called on the people of God under his pastoral care to follow the instructions “with no exceptions.”