Zimbabwe’s government has allocated $100 million to acquire COVID-19 vaccine shots, though the plan awaits recommendation from local scientists on which type to buy, a state-owned newspaper reported on Sunday.

The southern African nation has been grappling with an economic crisis that was in place before the pandemic began, and acute shortages of foreign exchange which has made the situation dire. The government has been criticized in many quarters for being too slow to announce its vaccination plans.

George Guvamatanga, the Ministry of Finance secretary told Sunday Mail that the government would use funds from a 2020 budget surplus and reallocate some of this year’s budget to buy the vaccine shots.

“The Government has set aside US$100 million for the vaccines to procure around 20 million vaccine doses to immunise 60% of the population, which will help us attain herd immunity,” Guvamatanga said, adding that the government was awaiting advice from scientists on which vaccine to buy and where to procure it.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in November that a budget surplus was expected for 2020, although final figures have not yet been published.

Zimbabwe has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases despite a strict lockdown imposed by President Emerson Mnangagwa’s government. The country has so far reported 33,273 confirmed cases of infections and 1,193 deaths from a population of about 15 million people.

Over half of the cases and more than two-thirds of the deaths have been recorded this month alone.

The southern African country’s health system has been crumbling for decades and is now struggling to cope with the spike in cases. Among those who have died in recent days were two cabinet ministers, a retired general and other high-ranking officials.

Anger among overwhelmed healthcare professionals is adding to a broader public dissatisfaction with Mnangagwa who pledged an economic revival after he took power from the late Robert Mugabe following a military coup in 2017.

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