Zimbabwe’s low vaccine rate is a product of the myths and rumors surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine which have created a hesitancy syndrome in people, especially those living in the country’s remote areas.
Since March 2020 when Zimbabwe confirmed its first Covid-19 case, the country has been receiving aid in the form of test kits, face masks, vaccines from countries like Russia and China. News about these donations has been spreading to people through social media and this has given room for manipulation of information, for instance, the vaccines being blamed for causing deaths. Hence, as a result, most people have been refusing to get vaccinated.
This has been affecting the government’s target to approximately vaccinate a total number of 10 million people in both rural and urban areas.
Although vaccinating people has been much more successful in the country’s urban areas, the situation has not been the same in the country’s rural areas. For instance, in Makaha, one of the rural communities in Mudzi, people care less about the pandemic. They are hesitant to get vaccinated and continue working outside curfew hours and without even wearing face masks at times – a defiance of the Covid-19 regulations.
“Knowledge deficit since illiteracy rate here is very high, religious beliefs, for example the high prevalence of the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect who do not take any vaccines, backward cultural beliefs and myths and misconception against the vaccine are to blame for some of the resistance that the majority of the Mudzi’s populace in abiding with the covid-19 regulations,” a nurse in one of Mudzi’s local clinics said.
Meanwhile, Mudzi’s local health workers and law enforcers implored the government to use” …a multi-sectional approach, for instance by engaging influential leaders such as politicians, mine owners, bottle store owners, and school teachers in order to convince people to get vaccinated”.
The Covid-19 pandemic which began in 2019 has claimed millions of lives and has affected the social and economic performance of most countries around the world. It is a contagious zoonotic disease caused by a novel coronavirus, named the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). From a sudden outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 to a worldwide pandemic, massively affecting countries like Italy, Spain, and the USA in less than 3 months, the disease has spread to all parts of the world, including Zimbabwe.
Within weeks of onset, COVID-19 had spread to over 100 countries across the world. By the end of June 2020, over 10 million cases had been reported to the WHO, with over 500 000 fatalities. According to WHO, Africa was ranked the fifth most affected region from the American, European, Eastern Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian regions, which were the first, second, third, and fourth regions to be affected respectively.
Zimbabwe confirmed its first case on 20th March 2020 and declared a 21-day national lockdown which started on 30th March 2020. By the 25th May 2020, two months after the first case had been confirmed; Zimbabwe had 56 confirmed cases, including 27 active cases, 4 deaths, and 25 recoveries and since then the number of confirmed cases, active ones, and deaths have continued to rise.
However, the country has not experienced rapid growth in the increase of Covid-19 cases like the one witnessed in other countries so far, and the trajectory seems different, but with the low vaccination rates, the country’s confirmed cases are expected to rise.
According to an article titled ‘Low vaccine rates in Africa are a global security issue’ published on 14 August by Annalisa Merell, more than 4.5 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across the world so far and less than 200 million have gone to low-income countries. In rich countries, 44% of the population is fully vaccinated. Vulnerable individuals are about to get a third booster shot, and a majority of those who have yet to receive a vaccine have decided not to get one, despite having access to it. In poor countries, only 1% of the population received a single dose, and even fewer received both. The government must intensify campaigns to get people vaccinated and at the same time ensure that those who want to be vaccinated are not disappointed by the frequent shortages of the vaccines.