Low vaccine uptake among elderly worries physicians

The College of Primary Health Care Physicians of Zimbabwe (CPCPZ) and Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians (ZCPHP) have raised concerns that many elderly people living with chronic medical conditions still remain unvaccinated at a time when Covid-19 deaths remain high.

Over the past weeks, the country has been recording a decrease in Covid-19 infections while fatalities have remained high.

Yesterday the country recorded 44 deaths, with Harare recording the highest number of  Covid-19 deaths, with 20 deaths.

As of yesterday, 32 926 people received their first dose bringing the cumulative for the first dose to 2 345 343 while 22 886 people received their second dose bringing the cumulative for the second dose to 1 483 048.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illnesses when they contract Covid-19.

In a joint statement, CPCPZ and ZCPHP said even though the Government is implementing the Covid-19 vaccination program, including the expansion to the private sector, the vaccination coverage has remained low.

“The Government of Zimbabwe has done a great job establishing the national Covid-19 vaccination program, including expansion to the private sector for a nominal fee. However, the vaccination coverage remains low, with over 15 percent of the targeted population having been fully vaccinated. We are particularly concerned that despite being prioritized, many elderly people and citizens living with chronic medical conditions are still not vaccinated,” read the statement.

“Whilst the last few weeks saw a decline in the number of Covid-19 cases, we are concerned that the number of deaths remains unacceptably high, with one of three people dying outside of health facilities. These deaths are commonest among the elderly and people living with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease.”

The physicians also noted that people who develop Covid-19 symptoms that require medical attention are delaying in seeking professional medical care.

“As a result of late presentation, families end up requiring very expensive treatment and long hospitalization or lives that could have been saved are being lost.”

The CPCPZ and ZCPHP further advised the elderly and all people living with chronic medical conditions to avoid crowded places and minimize interactions with people from outside their household (especially funerals, weddings, religious gatherings).

“We urge all citizens to do all that is possible to encourage and support their household members, the elderly, and those living with chronic medical conditions to get vaccinated,” the physicians said.

Meanwhile, they also encouraged frontline healthcare practitioners to maintain a high index of suspicion of Covid-19 in elderly patients and patients with comorbidities and offer early Covid-19 testing.

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