Govt wary of COVID-19 vaccine defaulters

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Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
GOVERNMENT says it has noted with concern the low uptake of the second COVID-19 jab in the country amid indications that scores of vaccinated people are defaulting on taking the second jab.

While new infections have been going down, recently government approved a fourth jab to fight the respiratory virus.

Only about 30% of the 6 313 389 people in the country have received their second jab.

Statistics released by the Health ministry show that COVID-19 cases are now decreasing, with 383 cases having been recorded in the past week, compared to the 552 recorded the previous week, marking a 38% decline.

Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “Regarding the national vaccination programme, cabinet wishes to inform the nation that, as at July 4, 2022, a total of 6 313 389 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, while 4 661 854 people had received their second dose, and 893 978 their third dose. This translates to a national coverage of 56,1%, compared to the 55,9% recorded the previous week. Given the large gap between the first and second doses administered, those who have taken their first dose should go for their second dose.”

Health experts, however, said although new infections were going down, unvaccinated people posed a high risk of getting infected compared to the fully vaccinated, which could actually trigger a fresh outbreak.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe (MDPPAZ) president Johannes Marisa said: “The major reason is that the cases are receding so people no longer see the importance of not getting vaccinated. The virulence of the virus is on the lower side. Complacency is contributing significantly to the low uptake of the second jab.

People think that they are already covered for dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the virulence going down and cases receding, people are having self-satisfaction. This is until danger strikes again and cases go up that people are jolted into looking for vaccines. However, globally, cases are on downward trend.”

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “Some people got their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine out of fear at the height of the fourth wave. Now they are saying they won’t go back for the second dose thinking that the pandemic is over because of the current decline in COVID-19 cases in the country.

All these funny theories against vaccines on the various social media platforms are affecting our vaccination programmes hence the low vaccine uptake. We now need new and encouraging messaging into the communities to create demand. Unvaccinated people threaten the safety of the vaccinated even when SARS-Cov-2 vaccination rates are high.”

Meanwhile, government said it would avail more resources for provincial teams to step up their vaccination outreach programmes which focus on increasing uptake of the second dose.

Last year it failed to meet its target to vaccinate 60% or 10 million people in order to achieve herd immunity by December 2021.

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