Only 143 teachers have been vaccinated in Plumtree district against a target of 832, showing a slow uptake of the vaccine among the educators in the border town.
Health personnel claimed the teachers are hesitant and afraid to be vaccinated while in their defence, the teachers said the vaccination centres are out of their reach.
There are 67 schools in Plumtree District, with 18 secondary schools and 49 Primary schools.
This matter was raised during a Covid-19 taskforce meeting in Plumtree Wednesday with Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, who assigned mobile teams to go to the far to reach places and vaccinate teachers.
“I need accurate information from you DCI (District Schools Inspectorate) about the numbers of teachers you have and the schools. I am hearing two explanations that it is a matter of reach, as nobody is getting to the teachers while the (medical) sister said they are hesitant,” he said.
Dr Mangwiro said the health ministry would assign cars for the farthest schools.
“The DCI must also raise an alarm and phone me then we have a mobile clinic for those difficult to reach places,” said the deputy minister.
Plumtree is targeting to vaccinate 25 000 people in the district’s mass vaccination programme aimed at reducing new Covid-19 cases in the border town.
The deputy minister encouraged everyone to take Covid-19 seriously as the disease was a killer.
“This virus kills one and leaves some scarred for life. Let’s not really waste our time reading too much on social media because if you follow social media you will be confused. It is important to understand the message we are trying to send here and that is to vaccinate and save lives,” Dr Mangwiro.
When pressed why there was low uptake amongst teachers, the DCI official said there was no access to vaccination centres and educators had not been reached to.
But Provincial EPI, Sister Lorraine Msimanga said the teachers were hesitant.
“Maybe now, they will come in numbers because there is a lot of hesitancy, somebody was even telling me, ‘now you want to force us.’ From the explanation that we have from you deputy minister, I think more teachers will be coming. Otherwise to say they are ready it will seem as if we health workers have not reached them. Honestly, we have laggards,” she said.
Lead Epidemiology Surveillance Operations Covid-19 Response and Acting Director Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Isaac Phiri, noted it would be logistically difficult to access each and every school, so he urged teachers to be practical and access the nearest health facilities.
“Wherever there is a school, there is a growth point, there is always a clinic. It can be a secondary school or a primary school there will be a health facility, although there may be outliers. For the teams to go to each school, we will have issues of transport, fuel and might be difficult,” he said.
“Teachers can go to the nearest clinics and be vaccinated. Let’s access the vaccines and mobile clinics, as the vaccines are there in the health facilities.”