COVID-19 vaccines: The wider the choice, the better

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DESPITE its shortcomings on other fronts, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration deserves a pat on the back for providing a wide choice of COVID-19 vaccines to enable citizens to freely pick a vaccine that best suit their condition.

Citizens can now choose from a wide selection of vaccines — from China’s Sinopham and Sinovac, India’s Covaxin, Russia’s Sputnik V and the recently approved Johnson & Johnson jab from the West. This does not only give citizens a wide choice, but broadens the country’s response to the pandemic.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and more people falling sick and being hospitalised, it has become apparent that there is an urgent need to explore other avenues in the quest to halt the disease and lessen its effects on the populace.

Hospitals are brimming to capacity with COVID-19 patients and mortuaries are the busiest.

Health personnel are overwhelmed and resources are running thin.

All resources have been rerouted towards COVID-19 management, obviously to the detriment of other equally deserving diseases like cancer, HIV and Aids, among others.

The economy has taken a knock from the repeated lockdowns and cutting down of business hours. For a country like Zimbabwe, this has, and will continue to shove many into abject poverty.

Faced with this scenario, it now calls for aggressive and bold decisions in tapping into other means that can save lives.

While a wide array of treatment and prevention drugs have been tried and dismissed, there is one that also deserves consideration, Ivermectin.

Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans to treat certain parasitic worm infections, is being touted as effective in COVID-19 prevention and treatment, with a few brave doctors like Jackie Stone and scientists testifying that patients benefited from the drug.

In Zimbabwe, this contentious drug has been limited to clinical trials and doctors can only prescribe under the strictest of conditions set out in a framework designed by the regulatory body, Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ).

While the authority has said it is carrying out its own tests and research, time is not really on our side.

Yes, studies into its use have not been definitive, but there are scores of patients and doctors who swear by the drug. While “official” measures prevail in terms of its use, many people are accessing it from pharmacies even without prescription.

Soon, fake copies will find their way on the streets and backyard pharmacies and we will have a much bigger problem.

That is how desperate the situation is.

While it is critical to do due diligence in proving efficacy and safety, there has not been any deliberate attempt by the government to push for speedy research or even committing reasonable resources to look into this drug.

This is despite pockets of research elsewhere having reported that Ivermectin has antiviral effects in viral culture studies.

Even if these are lab dishes, surely with the calamity that is facing the country, it would make good sense to at least exhaust research into this drug that might be the game-changer.

We have nothing to lose but lots to gain by investing in further research guided, of course, by MCAZ.