Editor’s Memo:Nevanji Madanhire firstname.lastname@example.org
Fierce debate has been raging in Zimbabwe on whether we should accept just any vaccine that comes our way since we are unable to make our own.
But why is this an issue when the world is racing to find an answer to a global crisis that has seen millions of people infected and killed by a virulent virus that the world wishes to stop at any cost?
The answer to this question is not far to find; it is clear Zimbabwe is still in the grip of the Cold War politics born in the post-WWII era when the world was divided, apparently irreversible, into two camps — East and West.
The West, led by the United States constituted one camp, while the East, led by the Soviet Union, made up the other. It was clearly a war to assert dominance over the politics of the world.
Unlike WWII itself in which bullets were fired, the Cold War was more of a propaganda war with each camp trying to outdo the other in terms of its influence on world affairs.
Apparently the new front of this intractable conflict is the race to find vaccines against Covid-19. And it is as fierce as any conflict could be; some have equated it to the race for space that ensued after WWII.
When Russia, successor to the USSR, announced its vaccine in August last year, it appropriately called it Sputnik V, named for the artificial satellite it launched into Earth orbit in 1957 beating its chief rival, the US, into space.
The vaccine debate in Zimbabwe is encapsulated in the words of a friend of mine who asked recently on social media: “I wonder when the vaccine will arrive here and which one?!? I don’t fancy Sputnik or anything Chinese! Eish . . .”
Needless to say, my friend is wary of anything that comes from the East, preferring obviously anything that comes from the West.
“I saw some info from Covax that one million doses donation was allocated for Zim is the AstraZeneca, I don’t know when it will be shipped, hope soon !”
She is not alone, and this transcends race. Zimbabweans are generally suspicious of anything made in China.
And they have coined a name for all Chinese goods — zhing-zhong, a phrase that judgmentally labels all Chinese goods inferior. They think this should also extend to Chinese medicines, including vaccines.
Russia too is viewed suspiciously in this part of the world, the reasons being purely founded on Cold War politics.
Zimbabwe is a former colony of an anti-Russian Western power, Britain, and the colonial mentality still subsists in the majority.
It must have come as a surprise therefore when this week Sputnik V was given the nod by Western countries after it was initially received with scepticism.
It was peer reviewed and found to have an efficacy of 92%. According to a BBC report, “it has been deemed to be safe — and offers complete protection against hospitalisation and death.”
What about the vaccines of the Chinese variety; are they zhing-zhong?
According to reports, three vaccines are currently far along in development in China. They are the vaccines from the companies Sinopharm, Sinovac Biotech and CanSino.
Only partial data on the efficacy of the vaccines has been released from their respective phase II and III trials.
Chinese vaccines are still to get universal approval, with most of Europe, except Hungary, not adopting them for use. But the attitude in most countries including Germany is “if a vaccine can be considered safe and effective, regardless of what country it has been produced in, then it could help”.
Zimbabweans should have the same attitude too and accept all effective vaccines regardless of origin.