Features

Clearing air around COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

MONICA KAYOMBO, Lusaka
RISING cases of coronavirus deaths in Zambia have awakened many Zambians that are willingly trooping to designated coronavirus vaccine centres dotted across the country .This is because reality has now dawned that coronavirus is real and delta variant, which was first detected in India, is more deadly resulting in fear among citizens.When coronavirus was first reported in Zambia, many people wanted to treat it like ordinary flu and ended up coming up with several self-medications such as steaming,taking medications for flu and vitamin C among others.Others opted not to report
coronavirus cases and only did so when the situation worsened, a thing that made it hard for health workers to carry out their work. On average, the country is losing over 60 people every day due to coronavirus.The schools in Zambia were closed on June 17 this year and the closure was to last only three weeks.The review committee composed of staff from the Ministry of Education,Ministry of Health later recommended indefinite closure of schools upon realising that cases continued spreading at supersonic speed and recorded deaths were also over 400 cases in a week.The morgues in most public health facilities and private ones are said to be overwhelmed.This also applies to grave yards,
where grave-diggers and other workers have complained of being overworked.The coronavirus cases currently being recorded and deaths are the highest this period since the first two cases in Zambia on March 18, 2020.When the first AstraZeneca consignment arrived in Zambia on April 14 this year, very few individuals turned out to voluntarily go to the health facilities to get the vaccine.The doses that are currently being administered in Zambia are AstraZeneca,Johnson and Johnson and Sinopharm.The truth of the matter is that many were skeptical about the vaccine and many calls by the Ministry of Health staff and former Minister of Health Jonas Chanda, who led the way , fell on deaf ears.I can comfortably say that I was among those that were hesitant to get the vaccine and was eagerly looking out for side-effects of the vaccine among a few brave colleagues that got vaccinated immediately .Alas, most of my colleagues who received the jab did not manifest serious side-effects that were life threatening, as they were the usual fever that one would expect after getting a jab.There are several reasons why people were hesitant to get the vaccine when it was first introduced to Zambians.One of the reasons is that those that were getting the vaccine would experience some blood clots, and many myths like making people infertile and that it would suppress the natural immune system were cited.The second consignment of vaccine arrived in Zambia this month and those that got the first dose were getting their second and final one.Within the few days of receiving the vaccine, we saw the rising number of Zambians making inquiries of which health facilities were giving out the vaccine.Before long, we saw many places like the Lusaka showgrounds getting flooded with people that wanted to get the vaccination for the first time.The coming on board of JJ has actually made more people to turn up for the jab as it is one dose. People were willing to stand in long queues for hours just to get the vaccine
and my own aunt was among the people that stood on the queue from 08:00 hours until 12:30 hours, when she finally got the jab.Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary in charge of technical services Kennedy Malama said on July 11 this year:Today , we are delighted to see that we have had less admissions than discharges in the past 24 hours for the first time in three weeks, a key milestone we need to sustain as a collective.”He says Government will continue investing in the health sector to ensure that our COVID-19 response and indeed routine health service provision are continuously strengthened. In the past epidemiological week or first week of July , we saw fewer cases compared to the last (11,447 versus 15,714) and fewer deaths (379 versus 421). Patricia Bobo, assistant director in charge of health and nutrition at the Ministry of Health, says if someone is well, the clinicians would always give vaccines and if someone is not well,they do not give.“This is the general rule of all vaccines,”Dr Bobo said.Administration of dose one for those that never got the vaccine the first time it arrived in the country officially started on July 9 this year .The Ministry of Health issued a statement to say all provinces would align to existing testing sites except for Lusaka.The centres under Chelstone subunit are University of Zambia clinic, Kapilyomba school, Justine Kabwe Primary School in Mandevu, Chaisa and Showgrounds.Other sites are Muchinga Basic School, George Central Primary School and Mambilima Primary School in Matero. In Kanyama constituency , there is Makeni Islamic Centre and Chinika Secondary School. In Chawama subdistrict, one can get the vaccine from Chawama Secondary School, Evelyne Hone College and Kamwala Secondary School.In Chilenje sub-district, the Ministry of Health has set up St Patrick Girls’School and Bauleni Special Needs Centre.Those getting dose two can go to Woodlands A and Olympic Youth Development Centre near National Heroes Stadium on Great North Road.Those who qualify for the vaccine are those above 18, pregnant women,lactating mothers, the elderly and all those with underlying conditions.It is advised that each person must only take one type of the available vaccine.Health practitioners have recommended protection after getting the COVID-19 jab as the protection is not 100 percent.For instance,AstraZeneca will give someone 90 percent protection, meaning there is 10 percent chance of one getting
infected.If a person that has been vaccinated happens to get infected, one is unlikely to have severe disease.Therefore, it is important to observe the golden rules, which are masking up, washing hands regularly with soap or sanitising, keeping social distance,avoiding mass crowds and avoiding
hand-shakes.For the positive turn-out by people to get the vaccine, commendation must go to the Ministry of Health, as well as the media for continued senstitisation and debunking myths on the vaccine.As of July 12 this year , Ministry of Health in Zambia national statistics indicated that 43 died of COVID19 and the cumulative confirmed cases stood at 176,742.It must be mentioned that sensitisation needs to continue as many more people are still struggling to accept the reality .As of July 26, this year 20 people died in a day from Coronavirus and three COVID19 associated deaths were recorded in the same period,the cumulative number of those fully vaccinated with Astra-Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sinopharm stand at 95,071 while, 266,262 had received the first dose of the vaccine and a total of 3,129 tests representing eight percent positivity were done in a day .Within the same period, the cumulative figures of Coronavirus across the country stood at 192,316 and 584 were in hospital while 5,772 were under community management. The author is a Zambia Daily Mail Sub-Editor.



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