EDITORIAL COMMENT : More people must queue for vaccines

Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT : More people must queue for vaccines | Herald (Opinion)

Unvaccinated Zimbabweans need to make a renewed commitment to getting their jabs and join the growing number who have decided to boost their own safety and the safety of those they live with, work with, share a bus with and even just pass in the street so that this month we can do better than the one million doses we injected last month.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care, who organise the jabs, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, who buy the vaccines and the syringes and other equipment needed, have been doing their job.

Regular deliveries of vaccines now arrive from China and the health authorities get these out to the provinces, districts and individual vaccination points. And the Health Ministry has increased the number of teams and the number of nurses assigned to them.

Those efforts saw July being the first month where more than one million doses were given, in fact 1 081 071. The millionth dose for the month was given sometime on Friday, probably relatively early in the morning and those million Zimbabweans who lined up last month for their first or second dose, and a modest group who were lined up for both since they started early in the month.

But while the number vaccinated each week kept rising in the first three weeks of July it fell modestly last week, by almost 15 percent, and that tends to suggest some people were postponing the start of their vaccination process.

Considering the deliveries being made and the delivery schedule put in place we should be able to meet or exceed a target of 1,5 million doses a month, an average of 50 000 doses a day.

We can do that since during July we went over 50 000 doses in eight days, and over 60 000 doses in three days, with the record set on July 22 of 69 699.

There is always a fall in jabs on Saturdays and a major fall on Sundays, largely because many of the smaller vaccination points do not have shift systems and so have to close on weekends, but so long as we are giving over 60 000 jabs a day on the other five days we should have little trouble meeting a target of 1,5 million a month, and so matching the delivery schedule with the distribution schedule.

The health authorities, through Chief Co-ordinator of the National Response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, part of whose job is to collect data and statistics, have now assured us that all the vaccines in use in Zimbabwe work against all known variants, including the Delta variant that is now generating about 80 percent of our new infections.

The effectiveness of vaccines is measured globally, looking at all countries using a particular vaccine and then at the percentage of infections caused by variant and the percentage of infections caused by each variant among the vaccinated. If the two are the same then the vaccine works.

No one says vaccines are foolproof, which is why the vaccinated have to wear masks, social distance and follow the same rules as everyone else, but they certainly work exceptionally well.

The USA has now found that over 99,3 percent of those who die of Covid-19 were unvaccinated, and yet well over half the American adult population has been vaccinated.

As Dr Mahomva confirmed, not only does vaccination give you a lot of protection against infection, but if are unfortunate enough to be infected it means your body is reacting very quickly, producing very fast the antibodies you need to kill the virus. So you are very unlikely to fall very ill and even more unlikely to die.

Delta is not any different when it comes to the severity of an infection or the chances of dying from an infection, but it is more infectious, meaning it can spread faster. And that is why it has been driving Zimbabwe’s third wave although we are now beating that wave back.

We now know that the vaccines used in Zimbabwe are exceptionally safe. The odd person has a minor one-day reaction, but no one has fallen ill, and with more than 2,4 million doses administered those are pretty decisive statistics when it comes to assessing safety.

Some of those who should now be taking advantage of the better logistics in the Health Ministry are obviously just a little lazy; they will go “tomorrow”. It is a nuisance queuing and generally you might need a day off work.

But most employers are now making plans and in any case are prepared to sort out the needed time off since the desperately want a safer working environment. With the de-congestion requirements in many businesses there is a perfect opportunity for those working from home to send an email and then go off and line up.

Others still have their doubts, with some of the things circulating on social media not helping. While most church leaders have now endorsed vaccination, with many having already stood in line and got their jabs, there are still some hanging back and some even circulating the nonsense issued by exceptionally right-wing Americans who seem to equate vaccination with repudiating the previous President.

But when you search for the web sites that oppose vaccination on religious grounds all you can actually find are calm and reasonable responses from the same evangelical theological perspective that carefully explain why vaccination is not evil and why it is, theologically, not only acceptable, but also a good idea. Those with doubts should perhaps explore these explanations.

Victoria Falls, which has achieved herd immunity, in fact something well in advance of herd immunity, shows the advantages. That city is returning to “normal”, and even restaurants are now re-opening. The health authorities did not just apply a formula; they had a good hard look at city infection rates before they gave their okay to a relaxation in rules.

The point is that Victoria Falls is not much different from the rest of the country. The city has residents from all religious and social backgrounds. But they worked together and got jabbed.

The rest of us now need to follow that sort of example and take advantage of the upgraded distribution of vaccines by the health authorities to get our jabs. The best day last week, Wednesday, with 58 601 jabs was pretty good. But it is only the fourth best on record. We need to press ahead faster so that each week sets new jab records, not new infection or new death records.

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