THOUSANDS of nurses and other health workers in public hospitals, including major referral hospitals — Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe — are resisting to be vaccinated against Covid-19 using the Chinese donated Sinopharm doses.
There has been a raging debate over the efficacy of Sinopharm vaccine as government has failed to adequately communicate information about the vaccine which was handed over to Harare by Beijing a fortnight ago.
Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga was the first to volunteer to take the jab at Wilkins Hospital in Harare.
Health sector workers this week said they were hesitant to participate in the vaccination programme due to fears of side effects of the vaccine.
Sinopharm is said to have 76% efficacy rate and has been taken in many countries including Brazil, Egypt and United Arab Emirates, among other countries.
Vaccines manufactured by Western countries such as Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca have efficacy rates of over 80% while the Russian Sputnik V vaccine stands at 92%.
An investigation by the Zimbabwe Independent showed that nurses and other health officials at Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe hospitals were reluctant to take the jabs, citing lack of information about the vaccine.
Nurses who cannot be named for professional reasons said although the vaccination was voluntary, there was low uptake.
“Workers are dreading the whole process. It’s fear of the unknown because, you know, a lot of conspiracies have been going on about these vaccines. No one knows how this vaccine works; so there is serious scepticism. Hospital bosses tried to force workers to go, but in turn, we asked the officials to lead by example. They are also afraid to get the vaccine,” a nurse at Sally Mugabe hospital said.
At Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, a few people participated in the first week of the vaccine roll out. There has been a lot of unverified information about the Sinopharm vaccine, sparking fears, as many shy away from the inoculation process. Government has prioritised frontline workers in the health sector in the first phase of the vaccination exercise.
Health and Child Care ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri said they were still compiling figures of those who have been vaccinated.
“I don’t have the figures right now. We are expecting figures in the afternoon (yesterday),” he said.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo confirmed the low participation of health workers.
“I can confirm that people are afraid. However, vaccination is the way to go. The reports we receive show that there was a low turnout on Monday but it seems the number is increasing slowly. But as more information trickles in from government about the vaccine side effects and efficacy details, maybe things will change for the better,” he said.
“There is need for government to properly dispense information about vaccines because there is a lot of information on social media. Government has to publicise reliable information on all media platforms to build confidence among health workers and the general populace.”
Dongo said government is supposed to consult health workers before rolling out the vaccines.
Early this week, the Health and Child Care ministry said 1 314 out of 46 000 health workers had taken the jabs.
“There is fear among the people and the first phase has to work because this will then instill confidence. In government, there are 20 000 nurses and all health workers are over 46 000. If it’s true that 1 314 have taken the vaccine; what percentage is that? There is a problem. Government should clear the air about the vaccines. The messages should be dominant on all social media platforms so that we win the hearts of health workers and citizens. We are encouraging our people to get vaccinated,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association could not comment on the matter.