Plumtree border officials hesitant to get Covid-19 vaccine

There is a low uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among officials at the Plumtree Border post a situation that puts the officials at risk of the pandemic.  

The border post has various departments which include Immigration, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Agriculture department, police, military and intelligence.

Out of this, a few workers have been vaccinated.

Authorities said Plumtree District is targeting to vaccinate 8 950 adults and so far, only 900 had been vaccinated.

Plumtree District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr Joe Nganono said the low uptake of vaccination by staffers was quite unfortunate considering the border welcomed people from various walks of life.

“If we are to reach our target of 8 950 in the coming 10 days, I recommend vaccination for people. I am not sure of the total numbers but those vaccinated are 12 workers from ZIMRA, eight from immigration, two clearing agents, nine from the agricultural department,” he said to a delegation visiting Plumtree border led by Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro.

Plumtree’s Port health Officer, Derrick Mafa disclosed it was difficult to access information from other departments hence the low vaccination uptake.

“The Port Health has 18 staffers and all have been vaccinated, except for three appointees who joined recently. When the team rolled out vaccination, we tried to engage the stakeholders for a list of all departmental members but that list could not come,” he said.

“I think there were some strings attached to it since there are so many departments, it was very difficult for me to get that information.”

When pressed for information on the staff compliment officials revealed that the immigration department had 30 staffers, ZIMRA 30 workers, police had 23 officers deployed at the border but numbers of clearing agents, agriculture officials, military and intelligence were not stated.

“You must be close to 200 and from the way the port health officer is describing, it looks like there’s animosity already. He says strings attached, as everyone holds on to information to say ‘you will never know how many we so no vaccination here.’ The port health officer is sounding angry and anxious,” Dr Mangwiro said.

He urged all the department heads to work together and cooperate so they could be vaccinated.

“The risk leads to yourself because those from Botswana go to South Africa, and South Africa has many visitors, bringing different variants that may end up with you. The port health must hold a meeting for everyone. I don’t know where the spirit to say ‘I won’t give him the figures’ comes from. Nobody can tell me how many you are yet you are a very small community. You must cooperate, this is not good,” Dr Mangwiro indicated.

Dr Mangwiro also tasked Mangwe District Development Coordinator, Rorisang Makhurane to unite the different heads at a meeting she would facilitate.

“From the little expressions I saw here, there is animosity, people are itching and it is not good. I don’t think you even have a football club together,” he joked.

Chief Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Maxwell Hove, said vaccination had to be prioritised as border towns were at high risk.

“The numbers given by the DMO are very disappointing. Covid-19 is a traveller’s disease, those who are travelling take it from one part of the world to other, from one country to another and border towns like Plumtree are vulnerable to Covid-19 transmission,” he said.

“It is important for people living in border towns to be vaccinated so they are able to protect themselves and families. This will also allow industries like the border to function, it cannot function when we are all scared of each other. But when we are vaccinated we know workers are safe and not taking the disease back home to their relatives.”

Dr Hove said this dovetailed to the herd immunity concept, where Zimbabwe aimed to vaccinate at least 10 million or 60 percent of the population.

“The remaining 40 percent are protected. If people are sitting in a row and the first person is infected and the next three people are vaccinated, it means these three are unable to take the disease from this person and therefore all others at the other end, even though are not vaccinated are already protected. That is herd immunity so we need to make sure there’s that immunity in Plumtree by vaccinating the 8 950 in 10 days going up,” he said.

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