Zimbabweans call for improved Covid-19 vaccination information

By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu

MASVINGO–Zimbabweans would like health authorities and experts to provide more information about Covid-19 vaccines to boost the country’s vaccination programme and fight against the pandemic. 

There is extensive use of traditional media such as radio, television and newspapers but these, some people say, are not enough given the way information dissemination has changed. 

“The government should use other means for information dissemination which includes everyone as this will lead to the education of the people regarding the vaccine,” says Pride Gumbo.

“There are platforms like in buses, clinics, schools that can be used.”

Jabulani Nkosazana, 24, agrees and says if awareness campaigns become more aggressive, people will choose to get vaccinated. 

 “The government has to scale up raising awareness and the masses will comply because without this, there will be more resistance from the people,” he says.

False information on social media

There is a feeling that social media created a lot of damage by spreading conspiracy theories that were not countered quickly enough, leading to the widespread skepticism over the vaccine exercise. 

“The government made a mistake from the start,” Nkosazana says. 

“They should have educated us about the vaccines way before (they were introduced), but there was little time to educate the people and this is the reason why people are hesitant.”

He adds: “From the start, when the issue of the vaccination started, social media had already brainwashed people to the extent that people had to believe the social media over the health experts.”

No harmful programme 

However, Dr Agnes Mahomva, chief coordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the office of the President and Cabinet, says the government would never introduce something they know could harm its citizens.

“There is need for us to vaccinate everyone but we are not forcing people,” she says. 

“It should be voluntary and that is why people should have knowledge about the vaccine.The government is doing all it can to protect us against the virus (and) will never do anything to harm its own citizens.”

As of 30 March 2021, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 69,751 people had been vaccinated country wide.

Health authorities have acknowledged the hesitancy by some people to come forward to get vaccinated, although there is improvement in the quest to achieve herd immunity. 

There is still skepticism and mixed feelings in Masvingo Province over the vaccine’s safety,where resistance is still rife despite the province now rolling out the second phase of the vaccination programme. 

This came out during the interviews that were carried out amid lots of theories and rumours,much of them fueled by social media.

Not far enough 

Pride Gumbo is adamant that the medium that was used by the relevant officials to disseminate information led to only a few people getting the vital information about the vaccine.

“Not everyone has access to the televised information, and online platforms being used, not everyone has access to zoom meetings that are also being used to disseminate information,” he argues. 

“People still think relying on the traditional methods is the best over the vaccination as in the early days of Covid-19, the people turned to home remedies to fight the virus. 

“So even now with the vaccination programme, people might still decide to use the traditional methods. These traditional methods seemed to be effective as they are the ones that are being used by those who are self isolating at home.”

COVID-19 vaccines effective 

Says Dr Mahomva: “The vaccine is effective. We have the Medicines Control Authority, which scrutinises and advises us on every medicine that comes in the country, so no one is at risk, we are protecting our people. We carry out monitoring and evaluation and carry out surveillance to check if there are no side effects after one gets vaccinated.

“The regulatory framework we have proves that the vaccine is not life threatening. People should use approved vaccines, science-based vaccines.”

She advises people to get vaccinated as the jab stimulates and creates anti-bodies to fight against the virus and improve their immunity. 

“This is not a death sentence,” she says.

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