Thousands of nurses and other health workers in public hospitals are reportedly refusing to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus using the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
Despite Vice-President and Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga volunteering to be the first person to take the jab at Wilkins Hospital in Harare last week, public sector nurses remain hesitant to participate in the vaccination programme due to fears of side effects of the vaccine.
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Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president Enock Dongo told Zimbabwe Independent that there has been low participation of health workers in the vaccination programme. He said:
I can confirm that people are afraid. However, vaccination is the way to go. The reports we receive show that there was a low turnout on Monday but it seems the number is increasing slowly.
But as more information trickles in from government about the vaccine side effects and efficacy details, maybe things will change for the better.
There is a need for government to properly dispense information about vaccines because there is a lot of information on social media.
Government has to publicise reliable information on all media platforms to build confidence among health workers and the general populace.
Sinopharm is said to have a 76% efficacy rate and has been taken in many countries including Brazil, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
On the other hand, vaccines manufactured by Western countries such as Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca have efficacy rates of over 80% while the Russian Sputnik V vaccine stands at 92%.
Dongo urged the government to do more to educate the public about the importance of being vaccinated as the 1 314 health workers who had taken the jabs constitute a tiny fraction of all health workers. He said:
There is fear among the people and the first phase has to work because this will then instil confidence. In government, there are 20 000 nurses and all health workers are over 46 000.
If it’s true that 1 314 have taken the vaccine; what percentage is that? There is a problem. Government should clear the air about the vaccines.
The messages should be dominant on all social media platforms so that we win the hearts of health workers and citizens. We are encouraging our people to get vaccinated.