Community participation key to containing Covid-19

Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo, says if there is to be any success in containing Covid-19, community participation is a key factor.

His sentiments come as people are raising concerns that Covid-19 vaccination is fast becoming mandatory in various places such as workplaces, and even in church.

Speaking at a WhatsApp platform with members of the public on the topic,  ‘NO vaccine, No service policy,’ Dr Welcome Mlilo, said messaging on the vaccine has always been about giving humanity hope and belief that there is a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“All countries right across the world who have had any success in containing this pandemic, community participation has been the driving force. We must look beyond ‘just me,’, we have to be one. Covid- 19 vaccination is not just an individual decision. It’s a community decision at that level,” he said.

“We must all play our part to bring an end to this pandemic, so we can return to normalcy. It is disheartening to hear other European countries have already gone into a fourth wave. We must not be paralysed by fear. I think we saw a number of prominent leaders, especially religious leaders, at the beginning ‘prophesying’ based on or feeding into fear of our communities at the beginning of the pandemic. That for me is most unfortunate.”

The participants queried why they were being forced to take the vaccine when the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a person has a right to accept and deny any medication.

Others questioned the rights of the ‘next person’ who did not want to be infected by those who refused to be vaccinated.

The participants also noted that Covid-19 had brought a dilemma in terms of balancing human rights.

Dr Mlilo said the best way to deal with this situation was to engage widely.

“The fears about the vaccine are understandable. I hope as we engage, we can touch on some of those and share relevant information. I’m pro-choice. I was very much anti-Covid-19 passports. I will admit I see the sense in them now. But I believe the best way to go about this is through engaging. Behaviour change is a process. We have to be patient with one another,” he said.

But Dr Mlilo warned that the ‘danger of a fourth wave beckoned.

“After such a devastating third wave. We may not have the time. We must be ready. This will soon be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said the health official.

He also called on people to bear with health systems, noting there were challenges in administering services.

“The long queues are less than ideal. But we are all aware of the state of affairs in our nation, there’s a flight of skills that has worsened of late. So our clinics and hospitals are not fully staffed. But the staff we have are working flat out to make sure that we meet our people’s expectations in service of our country. I think they must really be applauded,” he said.

“No country in the world has done this vaccination exercise seamlessly. Again, my call on the community is we are in this together. Let’s support one another.”

The health official also asked people to support the limited health workers at the vaccination sites by queuing up orderly and practicing social distancing.

“On the issue of vaccination centres being Covid-19 hotspots. We really haven’t seen evidence to support this theory. The risk of transmission of the virus is minimised in an open space, queues are outside and people are masked. We expect that the community supports the limited health workers. Once again, I know it’s becoming a song, but community participation is key,” Dr Mlilo encouraged.

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