ZIMBABWE took delivery of its first donated Sinopharm vaccine from China yesterday with yet another donation from Russia expected soon amid hope that the drugs would help halt the marauding COVID-19 pandemic.
With our infection and death rates still high, the vaccine is seen as the country’s only way out of the jaws of the respiratory disease’s devastating effects on human life as well as the economy.
While we applaud the government for treating the pandemic as a health emergency, we believe that the success of this intervention and the enormous feat of rolling it out successfully will require all hands on deck.
Countries which have already rolled out mass vaccinations have roped in stakeholders to help in mapping out best strategies to take the jabs to the rightful people.
Active stakeholder engagement is key in addressing swirling conspiracy theories, as well as improve uptake levels of the vaccine by the populace.
The presence of the vaccine is not a solution in the absence of a multi-sectoral approach.
In the Zimbabwean context, the health workers themselves have not been informed adequately about the rollout plan and many have no clue of what to expect and how to apply the vaccine and address citizens’ concerns, moreso after there have been public concerns over its efficacy.
Basing the current vaccination on previous programmes is the worst folly because COVID-19 is a different ball game altogether.
There are too many information gaps and unanswered questions that need urgent attention before rolling out the mass vaccination programme.
We believe these gaps can easily be bridged by roping in the private sector, and other key players among them health professionals who have the capacity to improve on what the government has to offer.
This is where civil society and aid organisations can come in handy and help spread the word to the communities they operate. The Health and Child Care ministry can collaborate with such organisations and have their employees respond to questions that may arise.
Government’s seeming unwillingness to work with other stakeholders can be misconstrued as a ploy to hide something and once the issue of trust is broken, this might hamper this noble intention.
While the acquisition of the vaccines is solely a government prerogative, it is, however, prudent that it engages stakeholders in the selection of the vaccines backed by scientific proof.
Development of policy and a framework for the rollout also requires various players’ input.
We implore our government to nurture a spirit of transparency and accountability when dealing with public resources.
Information should not only be shared as a reaction but offered beforehand as a prerequisite to the successful rollout of the vaccine.
Constant feedback will also improve understanding and help people make informed choices.
Attacking those who seek clarity and answers is a mediaeval strategy that has no place in a modern democracy such as ours.
COVID-19 is a global health disaster, therefore, efforts towards fighting it should not be misconstrued as an endeavour at scoring political points. It’s all about preserving human life.