THE second phase of the Sinopharm vaccine programme, which kicked off this week, has seen an increased uptake of the Chinese jab among the elderly with increased traffic at the country’s vaccination centres.
Inoculation centres in Harare were characterised by large numbers of teachers, nurses, the security forces, the elderly and other persons categorised under the second phase of the priority list.
Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare recorded large numbers of those seeking vaccination as Zimbabweans warm up to the Chinese shot.
At Wilkins Hospital, also in Harare, frontline workers like teachers, nurses and other professionals queued to get their first jab, while others lined up for their second dose.
Among those inoculated were the elderly, most of them above 80 years old.
Several senior citizens had been turned away in previous weeks, as health professionals cited medical complications that may be associated with receiving the vaccine at an advanced age.
However, on Wednesday, several elderly persons were inoculated after a vetting session with nurses administering the jab.
The candidates were asked if they were hypertensive or had any underlying health issues.
According to the ministry of Health and Child Care, the elderly are part of the priority group for inoculation during the second phase of the vaccination programme launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Victoria Falls this week.
Senior citizens who spoke to The NewsHawks were upbeat about the vaccination programme, urging Zimbabweans to participate as the country works towards achieving 60% herd immunity.
Esther Madzima (85) of Mt Pleasant suburb, who arrived for inoculation with her daughter, said although she was sceptical at first, seeing most of her family members vaccinated gave her courage.
“I never wanted to hear about this, worse the fact that they would be introducing part of Covid-19 into my body, that made me extremely sceptical. But after seeing that, my daughter and her husband were still okay after almost a month of getting the vaccine. I felt I should also do my part,” Madzima said.
Madzima, a former health worker herself, said vaccinations have always been part of the health system and urged Zimbabweans to take the vaccine when more vaccines are made available.
Peter Hadingham (82), who was last week turned away as health officials cited old age and his asthmatic condition, said he was thrilled to finally get his first jab.
“I came last week and they wouldn’t vaccinate me because I was too old, but now they have relented, and I got my first vaccine. I have a bit of asthma and a failed back so I cannot walk straight, but otherwise I am healthy,” Hadingham said.
“There is no difference. I have a flue vaccine every year, there is no difference. Think of other people. They should think of the rest of the population, so they should get vaccinated because there is nothing to be afraid of at all,” he added.
Despite the growing uptake of the Sinopharm vaccine, the numbers have been worryingly low as health experts cite disinformation and a lack of information as the factors fuelling public scepticism.
Last week, cabinet announced that 1 839 people have been inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine daily since Zimbabwe launched the first phase of the national vaccination programme as daily inoculations remain low, further complicating the country’s fight against Covid-19.
The worryingly low figures of daily vaccinations will make it difficult for Zimbabwe to achieve 60% herd immunity and decisively tackle a pandemic which has since killed over 1 500 people in the country.
About 36 786 people have been vaccinated so far during the first 20 days, cabinet announced.
While the number of those inoculated remains low, government efforts to spread the vaccination across the country and sectors received a boost last week after Zimbabwe received 400 000 doses from China.
Although the doses from China are a drop in the ocean, they are welcome as the country battles to counter an impending third wave amid growing warnings from health experts.
With Mnangagwa receiving his first Sinovac vaccine this week, the government hopes such prominent personalities can help ramp up the numbers.
While many Zimbabweans remain on the fence concerning the vaccine, Nomore Mudovaviri, a nurse, was upbeat about getting his second vaccine. Since taking the first vaccine, Mudovaviri had not suffered any side effects.
“I just feel the same, it’s like the first dose. I do not have any side effects. I am a nurse, and I needed this vaccine,” he said.
Mudovaviri urged Zimbabweans to heed to official information about the vaccines.
“I think people do not want to get the vaccine because of rumours and some of these churches are not helping at all; they are breeding fear among their congregants,” he said.
Nurses and doctors have accused the government of failing to effectively communicate the side effects of the Sinopharm vaccine to Zimbabweans, saying this would affect the uptake of the Chinese jab.