By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET) says the spread of misinformation, distrust, including social, religious, and cultural barriers are contributing to members of their sects being hesitant to receive Covid-19 inoculation.
The government launched the programme in February this year with a target to vaccinate 60% or 10 million citizens.
However, the uptake has not been favourable with the Health Ministry indicating Friday that 500 422 people had taken the first dose and 140 340 the second dose.
But, Apostolic Sect leaders said members from their churches were unwilling to receive the vaccination due to lack of information and social barriers.
This emerged during the United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Global Faith for Positive Change Initiative in Harare workshop attended by faith leaders from various religious groups on Covid-19 vaccination awareness campaign.
“Understanding and addressing these barriers is key for our partnership with local faith actors, increasing their abilities to counter false claims or address religious questions or other sensitive topics,” Tendayi Gudo AWET national director said.
“The spread of too much-unfiltered information and misinformation has undermined people’s trust in the Covid-19 vaccines.”
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) director for research, Ronald Nare said faith leaders had a responsibility to provide a fresh understanding and insight on Covid-19 vaccines.
“We must mobilise faith groups to take direct actions to promote the well-being of children, families, and the communities they serve,” he said.
“Religious leadership hold some of the deepest and most trusted relationships with their communities and, as skilled and influential communicators, they can significantly move the hearts and minds of millions and in turn shape behavioural and cultural practices.”
The president of the Supreme Council of Zimbabwe, Sheikh Ishmael Duwa said he was the first Islamic leader to receive the vaccine in public and was now encouraging followers to get vaccinated.
“I am sharing my vaccination experience to Islamic followers to prove these vaccines are safe and getting injected is how we can protect our children, families, and communities from this pandemic,” he added.
Phyllis Manungo from Seventh Day Adventist Church told the participants: “With this knowledge, I am going to play a leading role in challenging misinformation circulating through our congregation platforms and social media space by promoting trust in accurate information from sources such as the Ministry of Health, and UNICEF.”
UNICEF and the Ministry of Health in partnership with AWET hosted the dialogue with interfaith religious leaders from across the country to leverage support for the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out and recovery.