Zimbabweans still sceptical about Covid-19 vaccines

By Kenneth Matimaire

Zimbabweans are still sceptical about Covid-19 vaccination largely due to misinformation around the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines, research by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Zimbabwe has revealed.

UNICEF Zimbabwe carried out the U-Report Poll and Internet of Good Things survey on Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy and uptake from June 13 to 16 with 11,175 respondents across the country’s 10 provinces.

The respondents, who were aged18 years and above, had varying reasons for not trusting the vaccines with 30 percent indicating they were sceptical about getting inoculated.

Another 28 percent of the respondents had reservations about the vaccines that Zimbabwe is administering.

Zimbabwe has only approved China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, Russia’s Sputnik V and Covaxin from India. 

Some of the respondents also felt that the vaccines were not properly tested in clinical trials before they were approved for use.

“Trust remains a big issue,” reads part of the UNICEF Zimbabwe survey report.

“Communication content needs to address misinformation and disinformation and create better gender channelling for messaging in communities targeting males. 

“Better communication reinforcing that all vaccines are safe and carry very low risks (is needed).

“Also that the vaccine is effective against Covid-19 death and serious illness.”

At least 42% of the respondents had not taken a Covid-19 vaccine, but 81 percent of those surveyed were aware that the jabs were free, and 58 percent knew where to access them.

“Communication needs to simultaneously focus on action oriented as well as general vaccine and type of vaccine key messaging,” UNICEF Zimbabwe added.

“Demographically, communication channels and content need to (be) better focused for reach and nuanced messaging to address the reasons for hesitancy and misinformation.”

The report noted that female respondents were generally more informed and likely to act towards vaccination and “continue with safety measures while males are less informed and less likely to seek information or get vaccinated against Covid-19.” 

“Now that more people have shared their positive experiences with the first dose, this has certainly encouraged more within communities to improve their knowledge,” the report added.

As of January 5, 797,715 Zimbabweans had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The government has set a target of inoculating at least 10 million people by year-end to achieve herd immunity.

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