Sceptical citizens want Govt to set up Covid-19 vaccine information centres

By Nyasha Dube and Priscilla Makondo in Zvishavane

Residents in areas in the Midlands province have called for the establishment of COVID-19 vaccine information centres, saying they lack adequate knowledge concerning the vaccine.

The country received it’s first batch of 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated from China on February 15 and the vaccination campaign has already started across the country.

The Midlands province received 11 500 doses.

Most frontline workers who include health workers, security forces, ports of entry staff, journalists among others have already received their first jab of the vaccine, and next on the second round of the first phase are the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

Residents who spoke to CITE said they need balanced information so they can decide whether to be vaccinated or not.

“We know nothing about this Sinopharm vaccine, which makes it hard for us to make choices about being vaccinated. There’s also a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine and we do not know what is true and what is false. ” said one Munetsi Sibanda from Shurugwi.

A Gweru resident Annastacia Zhou expressed her concerns regarding the vaccine.

“I do not know much about the vaccine, and it is hard to take the risk of being vaccinated when I do not have adequate information on its side effects,” Zhou said.

Ishmael Moyo from Zvishavane-Runde shared the same sentiments, saying there is need for education and awareness campaigns regarding the vaccine as most people in the rural areas do not know much about it.

“We are sceptical about being vaccinated because we lack adequate knowledge on the vaccine and how it works. Government and health workers must ensure that everyone is equiped with information so that we are on the same page,” he said.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who also doubles up as the Minister of Health and Child Care was the first to be vaccinated in an effort to build public trust, and most influential and political figures followed suit.

The vaccination program targets to inoculate 10 million Zimbabweans.

Midlands Provincial Medical Director Reginald Mhene said all is set for the vaccine rollout program to be implemented in it’s respective phases.

“We received our vaccines for the province and I can say we are ready to ensure that all districts get their doses. Frontline workers have already started receiving their first jabs and everything is going according to plan,” Dr Mhene said.

Director of the Community Working Group Health Dr Itai Rusike said there is dire need for massive education and awareness campaigns in all indigenous languages, even the minority groups.

“The awareness campaigns must cater for people in areas like Plumtree, Binga, Hwange and Chipinge. They must receive information in their respective languages instead of prioritising English, Shona and Ndebele,” Dr Rusike said.

Dr Rusike also said the vaccine is safe.

“Tests have already been done to administer the effectiveness of the Sinopharm vaccine and ensure that it is of no danger to humans. That is why there are categories on who can take the vaccine,” he said.

Prescription information on the Sinopharm vaccine states that people above the age of 60 and those with underlying conditions like BP, Asthma, kidney diseases among others, cannot take the vaccine, most of whom are vulnerable to the COVID-19.

Meanwhile, health expert Dr Enoch Mayida reiterated that the vaccine is of no danger to humans.

“The vaccine actually boosts one’s immune system and produces antibodies such that when one catches the virus, they won’t fall sick. The vaccine is safe and even those who once contacted the coronavirus and recovered can take the vaccine,” he said.

Zvishavane Health and Environmental officer Dr Mubatsiri Shoko said they are educating residents on why they should take the vaccine.

“We have noted how most people are doubting the vaccine, but we continue educating them and availing balanced information so they make informed decisions,” he said.

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