Government has rapped some church and community leaders trying to stop their followers from accepting Covid-19 vaccines and said only professional health personnel should comment on the jab.
Mainstream church leaders have accepted the vaccine with the 84-year-old Pope Francis getting an early jab.
Unfortunately there are people accessing social media sites dominated by conspiracy theories, and even more unfortunately some of those being taken in by the unscientific claptrap are people in leadership positions in some of the new churches.
One prominent religious leader took to Facebook to record a 35-minute audio denouncing the vaccine saying it will have long-term side effects, and that those who take it will ultimately die.
In an interview yesterday, Director for Epidemiology and Disease Control Dr Portia Manangazira said it was improper and reckless for persons who are not qualified to comment on medical and scientific issues.
“So it’s in the best interest of the public that technically sound persons make the comments, recommendations and discussions around the vaccines. I have seen a lot of sentiments and emotions, but deficiency in technical detail of what the vaccines are made of and therefore the possible routes and mechanisms of protection.
“As with all infectious diseases, the current drastic preventive measures of lockdowns, masking up, social distancing and basic hygiene supported by adequate water and sanitation form the primary prevention strategies.
“However, given the severity and extent of the pandemic and its possible duration for the next two years, population immunity must be guaranteed and vaccines are key in building up the required immunity,” said Dr Manangazire.
“Fear, anxiety and some perceptions are from lack of adequate information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic itself being new and ever changing. When there is an information gap, people tend to fill it up with emotion, myths and misconceptions and even negativity that we have seen in both resident and diaspora Zimbabweans.
“I would encourage people to choose life, acquire correct and factual information and share that rather than the trash we see circulating.”
She said a lot of effort was taken in producing the vaccine hence they are safe.
“Vaccines take a lot of rigour to produce hence only a limited number of countries have the capability. Before we procure and use them in Zimbabwe there is assurance that they have been pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation and assessed by our medicines control authority.
“Our national immunisation programme then ensures that the personnel giving the vaccines have been trained on each vaccine. All side effects are recorded and reported. All these are to ensure safety of the vaccines,” she said.
In another interview, WHO country representative, Dr Alex Gasasira said the vaccine would have been subjected to thorough evaluation before distribution, thus making it safe.
“Absolutely all vaccines recommended by WHO have undergone very stringent evaluation to ensure that they are safe and effective,” said Dr Gasasira .
He said it was critical that everyone strive to have as much information as possible in order to make informed decisions rather than rely on unnecessary conspiracy theories that did not have known scientific grounding.
“It is important that everyone receives as much information about the Covid-19 vaccine in terms of benefits, safety profile and side effects.
“Information of which population groups will be prioritised for vaccination and why will also be made widely available.
“This will enable them to make informed decision regarding the vaccines. WHO working closely with Ministry of Health and Child Care and other partners to ensure that all in the community get this information and are able to share all concerns that they may have, “ said Dr Gasasira.
He, however, implored people to continue observing recommended health safety measures disseminated by authorities and experts.
Zimbabwe could receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccine next month with Government now finalising its national deployment plan and training of health care workers who will administer the inoculation.
The country is preparing to take delivery of the vaccine procured under a global groundbreaking initiative led by WHO, known as Covax which plans to procure and distribute a billion doses to African countries once licensed and approved.
The initiative has since got two billion doses which will be distributed equitably in all participating nations. WHO recently announced that most countries will start taking delivery of the vaccines.
Some world leaders, including Pope Francis, have since been vaccinated.
In Zimbabwe, frontline healthcare workers and the elderly who are most vulnerable will be prioritised.