Vaccine hesitancy could affect plans to achieve herd immunity by year end  

Vaccine hesitancy and low-uptake especially in rural areas may affect the country’s goal of vaccinating about 10 million people by this December to achieve herd immunity.

This follows reports that despite availability, most communities in the rural areas are failing to access the vaccine due to long distances that they have to travel to get to the nearest health centre.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe 132 540 confirmed cases, including 126 776 recoveries and 4 662 deaths have been recorded.

To date, a total of 3 251 466 people have received their first dose  of the Covid-19 while 2 517 653 have received their second dose.

Community Working Group on Health  Director Itai Rusike said multilingual public education campaigns involving communities may address hesitancy in many communities.

“There is need to strengthen coordination of the public health response so that we address the issue of vaccine equity as it is very worrying that vaccines are said to be available in the country but are not reaching some health facilities in the remote locations such as rural communities and the resettlement areas, thus defeating the noble efforts of bringing the vaccines into the country,” he said

According to Rusike, the government should consider improving and maintaining response capacities through reviewing conditions of service and maintaining health worker motivation.

“A majority of our health institutions are overstretched due to the numerous resignations of the health workers, leaving just a few overwhelmed health workers manning the health facilities to deal with the usual essential health services and the Covid-19 vaccination program.

“The current low vaccination rates and the high levels of public complacency may result in the country’s health care system being overwhelmed by the looming threat of a 4th wave of Covid-19. I hope that the people of Zimbabwe can learn something from what is currently happening in the UK where they are now experiencing an upsurge of new Covid-19 cases, hospitalisation and deaths including the mutation of the Delta variant,” said Rusike.

To this, COVID taskforce coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva said the Government was working modalities to ensure that communities access the vaccination as the country is still targeting to  achieve herd immunity by the end of the year.

“Government has secured enough doses for everyone who wants to be vaccinated but we have logistical problems which have resulted in some areas not accessing the vaccine. We are working on that and we urge communities to show a willing spirit to get vaccinated so that we achieve our target,” she said.

Mahomva also highlighted that government requires buy-in from communities in fighting COVID-19.



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