The success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy hinges on three pillars, namely government, medical personnel (frontline workers) and the media. Now that the government is generally failing to get the buy-in of the other pillars it means the rollout, particularly of the Chinese vaccine, has stalled and may fail dismally.
Government made a mistake from the word go when it did not involve health experts in the decision to choose the Sinopharm vaccine ahead of all the others. Government prioritised its political relations with China ahead of scientific advice.
It might turn out the Chinese vaccine is effective, in fact, scientifically any vaccine that has an efficacy of at least 60% is considered effective and safe. At 76% efficacy the Chinese vaccine is recommended. The Chinese vaccine has also been used without any problem in many countries; it is said 35 million people around the world have had the jab.
But due process is due process. Government should have put medical experts, especially epidemiologists at the forefront instead of basing its decisions on politics.
And, where do the media come in? If the government had done the right thing in the first place and let science take precedence, communication would have been made easier. Right now, because medical personnel do not have the correct information about the vaccine they’re wary of taking it, let alone administering it on the people. If the science had taken precedence the information would have been solid and communicated properly to the media for onward dissemination to the public.
The media, as we speak, know precious little about the vaccine. What they may know they have gleaned from online sources, but that’s not good enough. No journalist in Zimbabwe at the moment can write or speak authoritatively about the Chinese drug. So, the public, which would have looked up to the Press for information, now depends on social media, which, as is known, disseminates mostly unverified information.
Most of the information on social media is propaganda generated by competing drug manufacturers who use known stereotypes and prejudices to de-campaign one another.
Government should go back to the drawing board, after all Zimbabwe isn’t in a desperate situation where inoculation is needed urgently like in most western countries. It’s been a week since the Chinese vaccine has been rolled out; the government should now use medical experts to assess its effectiveness on the people who have been vaccinated and come up with the right figures concerning its efficacy on the Zimbabwean population.
Medical experts will then be required to give the correct information to the media so it is properly packaged for the consumption of the public.
It’s clear the government prefers the Sinoparm vaccine ahead of all the others. That’s fine since the vaccine has had a head start. So doing the right thing now won’t prejudice it against the others.