Editor's Comment

Don’t commercialise vaccines

IT IS pathetic that there could be some people attempting to commercialise the immunisation programme for COVID-19. We all know, or ought to know, that the vaccines have been procured by Government for free immunisation of all who wish to be inoculated. In this quest to stop the deadly virus, one would expect everyone, without exception, to be working together. Unfortunately, it looks like there are some in our society whose objective is to make money by any means. That is unacceptable, especially that this could be putting people’s lives at grave risk. Those that might believe that they have to pay for the vaccines but do not have the kind of money being asked for could miss out on this life-saving medication. Some could even die. Such deaths must be avoided at all costs and this must be done by not only ensuring that the vaccines are readily available at no cost, but also by stopping the unscrupulous people from taking advantage of the ignorant citizens. The efforts to stop the virus must be supported, not frustrated. For long, billions of people around the world, including Zambia, relied on the five golden rules – social distancing, wearing masks, cleaning hands frequently, covering any cough or sneezing in your bent elbow, and ensuring good ventilation. However, the five golden rules are now just part of the measures of managing COVID-19. Scientists devised other means of preventing COVID-19 by coming up with vaccines. Vaccines train and prepare the body’s natural defences – the immune system – to recognise and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. After vaccination, if the body is exposed to those disease-causing germs, it is ready, immediately, to destroy them, thereby preventing illness. There are several safe and effective vaccines that prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. That is why Government embraced vaccines to protect its citizens from the disease. So far, the country has received AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Sinopharm. In Zambia, only public health institutions are mandated to facilitate in the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Vaccines bought or at least availed through Government’s efforts are intended for access by the public at no cost at the point of use. But when demand for any commodity outstrips supply, a distorted market arises and usually the insincere extort and benefit the most from such a situation. That is why Government says private and public health institutions should not turn the coronavirus vaccination programme into a money-making venture by making people pay for the medicine. Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for technical services Kennedy Malama said the coronavirus vaccines being administered are free and that not even the private health institutions are allowed to commercialise the exercise. Dr Malama said yesterday that members of the public should be alert so that they are not swindled by crooks purporting to be giving vaccines.
It is plainly unethical for anyone to go down that road amidst such a global health crisis. For private or public establishments, this would be a time for them to step in as their corporate social responsibility to ease pressure on the public health delivery system. A pandemic calls for a swift humanitarian response to save lives. However, whatever the response, somebody somewhere is spending money to pay for vaccines, human resource in the fight against the epidemic and the production of awareness messages and their dissemination.

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