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Diasporans debunk vaccine conspiracy theories



ALTHOUGH no Covid-19 vaccines have reached Zimbabwe yet and there is no timeline by which the country is set to receive the drugs, a lot of conspiracy theories on the market have made many people cautious about the prospects of getting a jab when it is availed.

The conspiracy theories are even being spread by high-ranking government officials including Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri, who said she will not take the vaccine until it is developed in Zimbabwe. A church leader with a huge following, Emmanuel Makandiwa, said the vaccines are meant to “alter the DNA of Africans”.

Vice-President and minister of Health Constantino Chiwenga has however promised Zimbabweans that the ministry is doing all tests and trials to ensure the vaccines will be safe.  

The NewsHawks can recount the personal experience of a Zimbabwean health worker in the United States, Rumbidzai, to understand the information she received on the vaccination, her decision to go for the jab and her body’s reaction. Rumbidzai’s injection was the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, recommended for people aged 16 years and older.

“Understanding the science of how our bodies make antibodies, I was comfortable with the reaction that I experienced and not alarmed at all,” Rumbidzai, a nursing student working in a hospital as a nursing assistant, said.

Here is her journey.

“We were given a month to study fact sheets and given the option to decline to vaccinate. Nobody is forced and if you are not vaccinated you do not lose your job. Pregnant staff and those planning (within three months) on conceiving (male or female) were discouraged from taking the vaccine. It is suspected to cause birth defects and not enough time has been taken to study it in that regard. So, because there is not enough evidence the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) is not taking chances there,” she said.

Rumbidzai took the vaccine in two doses, the first on 3 January and the other one on 24 January.

“I got my vaccine with other staff members and most people did not have a reaction to the first dose. Twelve hours later, I’m still ok. No reaction, nothing weird. No change at all. I’m eating fine. I had a small arm ache, the same as when I get the flu shot. One co-worker who has hyper-reaction to everything developed some rash, but it did not stop her from working. She took Benadryl and it cleared.

“There are those worried about fainting, those who faint also faint for every single vaccine they take. Anaphylactic shock is common. They get resuscitated and soon after they stabilise and the body gets used to the vaccine.”

For the second dose, she said this had higher concentration and was tougher than the first.

“The second dose generally results in an immune response as your body makes antibodies, which is the desired effect. I was okay for 18 hours then I felt some chill, I took some Tylenol and went to sleep. I managed to go to school for four hours and returned home and felt fatigue and nausea. I drank only lemon water and some vitamin C. I went to sleep and woke up fine. I went to work as normal the next day,” Rumbidzai narrated.

“Most of my co-workers report similar issues where on day two (more than 20 hours later) they had slight symptoms and those are similar to a mild flu. They last one day mostly.

“Would I recommend other people to take it? Certainly, yes. I would take my chance with a vaccine that has 95% chance of saving me than dice with the 9% chance of death by Covid-19. I have seen a lot of patients recover from Covid-19 but I also saw too many deaths.”