IT seems the government is listening; some information from experts on vaccination is trickling through. Last Saturday, the official mouthpiece, The Herald, published as its lead, a story on how doctors have embraced the Chinese vaccine and are encouraging fellow Zimbabweans to accept it because it’s safe.
Although quite lame — the paper quoted just one epidemiologist who had been vaccinated, the other two “experts” had, in fact, not been and added little to the narrative — it was a good beginning. It put experts, rather than politicians, at the front of spreading the messages.
This week a document from the Ministry of Health and Child Care titled “Vaccines in Zimbabwe Information” circulated. It seeks to provide answers to the frequently asked questions on vaccination and also to dispel the common myths that have stood in the way of the universal acceptance of vaccination.
But is it too little too late?
Yesterday, as I hunted for a place to get my own jab, I spoke to one young man who works at a clinic in one of the suburbs. He said although he was a frontline worker he had chosen not to be vaccinated. I asked why: “I’m 37 years old and have only one child. I want to have at least one more child,” he said.
Asked what that had to do with vaccination, he said, “We’ve been told that it affects fertility.”
This was shocking coming from someone who works at a clinic and ought to know better.
Now it’s understandable why the first phase which targeted frontline workers has been such a flop.
In the first 10 days of the roll out, just about 28 000 people cumulatively had been vaccinated, this is against the 100 000 doses China donated for this phase which were enough to vaccinate 50 000 people considering that each person needs two jabs.
The vaccination of the frontline workers was always going to be the barometer with which to measure the acceptance of the programme since frontline workers, because of their training, are more enlightened on the importance of vaccination and the pros and cons thereof.
Initially it seemed the hesitancy was driven by the xenophobic and, therefore, irrational, reluctance to embrace anything Chinese, but it now it seems it’s about vaccination itself as a method of fighting Covid-19.
In this column last week the government was advised to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way of communicating the correct messages effectively.
Soon the government is going to have a stockpile of vaccines it will not know what to do with, what with the coming in of another 100 000 doses from China, other doses from Russia, India and the African Union! Add to this the one million more doses it has bought from China.
Time is of the essence; get the message out correctly