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Health workers sceptical over vaccine



ZIMBABWEAN healthcare workers have expressed scepticism over the Sinopharm vaccine rollout for frontline workers, warning that uptake could be low due to lack of information.

Frontline workers, who include doctors and nurses, are on the priority list to receive the Chinese vaccine which arrived in the country on Monday. More than 3 000 nurses have been affected by Covid-19, according to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), while several doctors, among them specialist practitioners, have succumbed to the virus.

However, doctors and nurses say the lack of information on the side effects of the Chinese jab had caused panic among healthcare staff, whose willingness to receive the jab would be crucial in the country’s fight against Covid-19 which has ravaged the country since the December holidays.

ZADHR president Norman Matara warned that the uptake of the vaccine among doctors would be low if government does not up the ante on its information dissemination.

“The sentiments we are getting is that there is need for more information when it comes to possible side effects to encourage uptake. From the sentiments we are getting, there is no vigorous information dissemination, and this may affect the uptake,” Matara.

Low uptake of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is yet to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), would be a setback to government’s Covid-19 vaccine phase.

“Government has to do more to allay the fears of the public and this begins with the frontline staff,” Matara said.

According to clinical trials, the Sinopharm vaccine has 79% efficacy, but China approved the jab and began exporting it.

Sinopharm works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against Covid-19.

The efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine has been under the spotlight from local experts, who cite concerns that it has not been approved by the WHO. This is despite widespread use in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and other countries.

According to a WHO vaccine evaluation programme, Sinopharm is on number 14, while the dossier for the vaccine has not been accepted for review. This has heightened concerns among the frontline staff who fear being made guinea pigs.

Doctors and nurses have also raised concerns over delays by the government to sensitise frontline staff, only starting a few days after taking delivery of 200 000 vaccines from China.

According to Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo, training for nurses had begun, albeit on a small scale. Dongo expressed concerns over the lack of information among the frontline staff.

Dongo said while nurses were ready to take the Sinopharm vaccine, a comprehensive communication plan was crucial for the period before the vaccination begins.

“I think there are fears among the frontline workers due to lack of information. People are always ready to take anything that will help prevent a disease but there is lack of communication plan on the part of government,” Dongo said.

The nurses are calling on the government to assure them that they would not experience any side effects after taking the vaccine.

“We see this a lot among the people we interact with. Government has not instilled a sense of confidence,” Dongo said.

“Trainings have commenced albeit on a small scale, others are done online. The vaccines are a tiny fraction of what we really need. We are lacking timelines and figures,” he said.

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