DOCTORS in Zimbabwe say they are worried about the slow pace of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme for front line workers.
But the statistics from the Ministry of Health are not that encouraging.
As of Thursday, 36,019 front line workers had received shots in the first phase of Zimbabwe’s campaign to vaccinate front line workers like doctors and nurses.
Senior government officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the First Lady Auxillia, and most senior government ministers and officials, who don’t want to miss any opportunity for a photo-shoot, are yet to be inoculated.
Mnangagwa told Zanu PF supporters at a rally in Nyamandlovu last month that he would only get the jab when the next batch arrived. It is, however, not clear why he is shunning to be injected as was done by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
The President also warned Zimbabweans they will not get jobs, board ZUPCO buses or access public places if the mass vaccine roll-out starts.
Zimbabwe received a donation of 200,000 vaccine doses from the Chinese company Sinopharm in February.
But Johannes Marisa said some health workers are skeptical of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is still in the final stages of testing.
“They are concerned that they may develop some unknown side effects as the drug is in stage three of the clinical trials. So that is one thing that is of great concerns. The second thing which people are complaining about is lack of health education. There hasn’t been much of education in terms of the benefits, in terms of the side effects,” he said.
Some health workers who hesitated at first have changed their minds. They are getting inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine, which Zimbabwe’s government says has an efficacy rate of between 76 and 86%.
Trevor Mushowe is a pharmacist who got vaccinated Thursday.
“I decided to come to today and take a shot and do my part to protect myself and to protect other people from contracting and spreading of the Covid-19 virus,” said Mushowe.
Still, a survey by Zimbabwe’s College of Public Health Physicians says 49% of Zimbabweans do not trust that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will provide them with a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.
Norman Matara from Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights said that partly explains the low acceptance of the Sinopharm vaccine by health workers.
“We need the minister of health to have an effective communication department such that people are given information regarding this vaccine, about its safety, its effectiveness, and dispel all those myths and misconceptions which are surrounding this vaccine. Some people have chronic illnesses, some people are above 60 and there were pamphlets flying on social media saying such people cannot have vaccines,” he said.
“We need those questions being addressed. We also need the government to rein in on some political or religious leaders who are publicly going against vaccinations. We cannot have people talking negative things about the vaccination when there is no scientific basis for that.”
Mutsvangwa told journalists this week that the vaccination programme is “well on course” and the government expects to receive more vaccine doses from abroad.
“Progress has been registered in receiving the second donation of 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, a donation of 75,000 doses of the inactivated Covaxin from India, and another donation of 20,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccine from Russia,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s government plans to immunise 60% of the country’s estimated 14 million people, in hopes of achieving herd immunity by end of the year.
Zimbabwe had by Thursday recorded 36 377 confirmed cases, including 33 972 recoveries and 1 492 deaths.