By Elizabeth Sitotombe
COVID-19 has affected many countries all over the world.
The first case was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and as of January 24 2022, there were 354 332 988 total reported cases with 5 602 941 people having succumbed to the deadly virus.
Many countries went on a ‘vaccine rush’ in order to get their people vaccinated against COVID-19 variants that kept on emerging one after the other.
In the US, 62 percent of the population have received a full course of jabs with the EU at 72 percent.
Africa, however, is lagging behind the rest of the world when in the vaccination uptake. 10,4 percent of the continent’s 1,2 billion people have received a full COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Countries like Morocco and Mauritius have vaccinated 62 and 72 percent of their population respectively and for countries like Congo and Burundi, their vaccination rates are well under one percent.
In Zimbabwe, as of January 20 2022, 4 228 376 people had received their first dose, with 3 254 587 on their second dose and 35 554 on their third dose.
The country has so far vaccinated just a fifth of its population of 15 million people
Zimbabwe had been aiming to attain herd immunity for COVID-19 by vaccinating 10 million citizens by the end of 2021, but that was not to be.
Many other African countries also missed their vaccination targets by end of 2021.
At first, Africa was having a difficult time acquiring vaccines. However, many countries have managed to acquire a considerable amount of jabs but still vaccination rates remain low.
Many people still hesitate to get vaccinated. Vaccination hesitancy is the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination where vaccination services are available.
Vaccination hesitancy remains rampant regardless of reports from hospitals treating COVID-19 patients showing that the bulk of admissions, serious illnesses and deaths come from unvaccinated individuals, suggesting that some of these deaths could have been avoided if the people had been vaccinated.
Research shows that if one gets infected with the virus, he/she has a better chance of fighting the virus if vaccinated.
What could be the reason behind individuals not getting vaccinated despite vaccine availability in the country?
Declining rates of sickness and deaths
In July 2021, a harsh Third Wave had scores of people rushing to vaccination centres as demand for vaccines surged following the emergence of the delta variant. People were very desperate for the vaccine they braved the long hours in queues just to get their jab.
It was apparent there was a difference in the level of sickness for those vaccinated and those who were not.
As soon as the number of infections and deaths began to decline, so did the numbers of those waiting to get their jabs.
It is easy for people to become complacent and relax when they feel they are past a certain danger.
Misleading information on social media
‘Anyone who gets a COVID-19 jab will be dead within two years’, screamed one of the headlines on a social media platform.
The other one showed a human being slowly mutating into an unrecognisable alien-looking like creature.
News and rumours of potential side-effects from the vaccines has led to people becoming sceptical to receiving jabs.
One of the main reasons for vaccine hesitancy has been misinformation.
According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy has become a major issue in some parts of the world such that: “It is more difficult to make an informed health decision when your choice is being interfered with by misinformation.”
Thirty-year-old Chido from Chitungwiza denies the effectiveness of vaccines and stands unfazed by her decision.
According to Chido, a post on social media helped her see the light on vaccinations just as she was getting herself to receive her first dose.
A post on social media suggested that her immunity levels would wane with each jab as she had read somewhere about a woman who died soon after receiving her second jab.
Theories discouraging those with underlying conditions from getting vaccinated were also rampant on social media platforms.
Many people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, asthma, HIV and AIDS as well as hypertension have not received their jabs after false information circulated citing that people with chronic illnesses were not required to go for their jabs as they were likely to react negatively to the vaccines.
According to medical practioners, it is even more important for people with underlying conditions to get vaccinated because they are at risk of developing severe disease should they contract COVID-19.
Omicron variant largely perceived as ‘mild’
Omicron is the latest variant of concern and because omicron was being perceived as ‘mild’ compared to variants like delta, many people started to believe that being vaccinated against COVID-19 was not an urgent matter.
Rather, it was better to catch the virus and do away with it.
However, omicron is still a dangerous variant and, unfortunately, some people lost their lives because of such poor decision making.
People with underlying conditions, those advanced in age and people who are unvaccinated can have a severe form of COVID-19, following infection from omicron.
It is undeniable that the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines has led to a significant reduction in disease severity, hospitalisations and significant reduction in deaths.
They remain the best defence against COVID-19 and its different variants.
In Zimbabwe, all those aged 16 and above can be vaccinated and all vaccines being used in the country are certified as safe.
Let’s all get vaccinated!