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Frontline Workers Speak On Low COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake

Medical professionals have attributed the low uptake of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine among frontline health workers to social media reports that the donated Chinese doses were for experimental purposes with no data on efficacy and side effects.

In an interview with 263Chat, Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union Secretary General Douglas Chikobvu cited the information gap which he attributed to myths and misconceptions that discouraged most frontline workers from getting vaccinated.

“There was inadequate health education, minimal involvement of health workers on the whole vaccine. The only thing that came to spotlight was that the health workers were the first to the vaccine without us being involved. Therefore, lack of prior health education and involvement of stakeholders with regards to the vaccine birthed low vaccine uptake from health workers,” he said.

“The sluggish start was compounded by several factors, inadequate health education and lack of stakeholder involvement. Now that the vaccine roll out is already underway, l think more and more health workers are beginning to get vaccinated. The were several Information gaps on the initial days hence some of the myths and misconceptions attached have been cleared as a result of further information dissemination going on,” Chikobvu added.

He accused government of failing to adequately deal with the COVID-19 resulting in the country going in a cycle of endless spike and drop in cases forcing the country to go into lockdowns.

“We are failing to thwart COVID-19 simply because our institutions are not properly resourced. Firstly, the measures that are being instituted are not practical for example hard lock lockdown in a country where most citizens don’t have safety nets to ensure they have basic needs. Most people will starve and die. What the citizens will simply do is to do all means try and feed their families. Borders are opened early before the disease is contained within the region hence the influx of new cases. So in General, policies should be synchronized while concurrently ensuring that people adhere to Standard Operating procedures,” Chikobvu said.

In an interview with one of the frontline workers who spoke on conditions of anonymity said she will get vaccinated after observing what effects it has on those that have been vaccinated already,”

“l have been reading a lot on social media about these vaccines and I’m not sure how safe are they. Since they are experimental, l want to first observe what happens to my peers who have already taken the vaccine and are yet to get their second jab and if there are less or zero effects then l can go ahead,”

In an interview with a local publication, the Mashonaland West Provincial Medical Director, Gift Masocha said health personnel including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other support staff are reluctant to take up COVID-19 vaccination due to negative publicity surrounding the safety and efficacy of the doses.

“During the initial vaccination programme targeting frontline health workers, we didn’t do so well as our people didn’t accept it. Only 46% were vaccinated, therefore, we need to go on an outreach exercise to conscientise and educate them on the Sinopharm vaccine,” he said.

“There is a lot of negative publicity especially on social media about the vaccine. People are asking and emphasizing on whether it is safe,” Masocha said.

Mashonaland West province had the highest fatality rate countrywide, which stood at 6,6% but only 46% of the province’s health workers were inoculated in the first 10 days of the rollout.

In a side interview recently at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro said government was now extending the vaccination rollout to the rest of the population at risk.

“So far it was only frontline workers and we have vaccinated up to 40 000 rather than the targeted 100 000. We are now encouraging the public to get vaccinated. We are now extending the vaccination to church leaders, teachers, those with chronic illness and everyone else who is at risk. We are inviting everyone to come forward and get vaccinated since we have opened this to a wider spectrum of the society,”

The government is targeting to vaccinate 60 percent of the population.

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