THE fear and confusion surrounding the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China and brought into the country this week reflects the failure by government to relay information to the citizens.
Health practitioners, teachers and trade unionists have expressed fears over being used as guinea pigs to prove the efficacy of the vaccine amid reports that it had resulted in complications in some countries it has been rolled out.
Among some of the concerns, the drug has not been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but is still undergoing tests and the highest efficacy rate it has had is 75% compared to other drugs that are now in wide use, AstraZeneca, Modena, Pfizer, the Russian Sputnik 5 which have had higher efficacy rates.
Suddenly, the Sinopharm drug received amid much pomp and fanfare, is now presenting more headaches for government than solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the country, claiming more than 1 400 lives since March last year.
Government can only blame itself for the dearth of information around the Chinese vaccine. Comments by the head of monitoring and evaluation in the Health and Child Care ministry, Robert Mudyiradima, which circulated widely on social media, to the effect that they still didn’t have full knowledge of the vaccine have worsened the uncertainty over its safety.
A well-organised and detailed information campaign about the drug will go a long way in allaying fears over the safety of the vaccine. This should include the public vaccination of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his two deputies Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi. Government’s messaging deficit has long been its Achilles heel and could severely hamper its efforts to curb the pandemic.
Its pathetic messaging and double standards have not only been limited to the Sinopharm vaccine. Doesn’t it raise eyebrows that while government is preaching the need to limit movement of people and public gatherings, the ruling
Zanu PF party continues to hold face-to-face meetings?
The glaring double standards were also laid bare when First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa ignored her husband’s order to avoid public gatherings by organising a cooking contest in Chinhoyi in blatant defiance of the national lockdown regulations. That this was held a day after government warned citizens to brace for more restrictions in light of the highly fatal and fast-spreading South African variant, not only exhibits absence of leadership, but is also an insult to the country’s citizens.
With such deplorable messaging, the government can forget about successfully curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.