#HerdImmunity—Increased vaccine choices may help Zim beat December target

ZIMBABWE leads the SADC pack being the first country to have surpassed 10 percent mark of full vaccinations against COVID-19.

This sounds a commendable feat but the target set by the nation leaves a lot to desire.

It requires nothing short of a miracle for Zimbabwe to administer 20 million shots for 10 million people.

With roughly 23 000 getting vaccinated per day, it is a long walk to herd immunity to cover eight million more.

Experts suggest that the only way to get out of the ‘COVID-19’ woods. As it stands, despite fully vaccinating over 2 million Zimbabweans, the country is about 8 million short.

There are factors militating against the vision for the nation to acquire herd immunity.

One such factor is vaccine hesitancy. Social media anti-vax propagandists, peddle unfounded and baseless claims around the vaccination. They believe it induces sterility. They also believe a vaccinated person will die within two years. Another claim is that after receiving a shot, the injected arm becomes magnetic. These are but the few of the many allegations.

The other factor is more political than it should be apolitical as human health is at stake here.
The Zimbabwean Government given its affinity to China, India and Russia selected vaccines manufactured in these countries. Zimbabwe is week-in, week-out taking stock of Chinese vaccines.
These are Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Covaxin. There is currently a stockout of thr Covaxin.
It is quite baffling that there are Vaccination Sites where you find there is either a Sinopharm only or Sinopharm only or Sputnik only.
Variety is the spice of life and with COVID-19 vaccination it is the best, not a short cut, but the best, to acquire herd immunity by end of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe refused to inoculate its citizens with the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine but later on approved it for emergency use. The vaccine is not yet available in the country.
Similarly, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca vaccines are not available.
Choice can increase the rate of vaccination. Some people got the getable vaccines just because they had no choice. Health professionals included.
“I got the Chinese one just because it was the only one available. I had no choice. If there was a choice, I would go for the Moderna,” a health scientist once confided.
Others because of lack of confidence in anything ‘Made in China’ have chosen to remain unvaccinated until the European and American made vaccines are accessible. South Africa despite having a lower vaccination rate than Zimbabwe, it has fully vaccinated 7 million due to its phased approach as well as having a wide range of vaccines one can choose from.
The other reason why Zimbabwe won’t attain herd immunity is the unclear logistics. By this, it is the refrigeration and transportation of the vaccines which is questionable. Zimbabwe always has electricity outages which in turn affect storage. Secondly, the distance between the collection centre to the vaccination site may result in the vaccine being unusable.
The sale of vaccination cards is a thriving business in the country. There syndicates making money out of this. It has been reported nurses and soldiers have been arrested for issuing cards to unvaccinated persons. Without the Government issuing to everyone who gets the shot, cards with QR codes which should be activated electronically, there wont be any transparency as the syndicates may just enter into the site’s database false information.

Zimbabwe, a lower middle income country commencing the COVID-19 vaccination drive this February is upbeat it will fully vaccinate 10 million ciitizens.
Professor Mary Louise McLaws speaking on France 24 recently said with Israel a low and middle income country having acquired herd immunity in eight months, other LMICs would take longer.
“If you have a look at the sensational roll out of the vaccine in Israel, they started rolling out in December. Right now after about eight months, they have up to about 70 percent of their population have had double dose.
“They are starting to see some neutralizing antibodies start weighing in and they need booster shots. So if it took them eight months, then it will take the rest of the world at least twice that.
“We are not going to get to low and middle income countries fast enough if Israel took that long to reach 70 percent,” she said.
She added COVID-19 variants will continue to pop-up with the unvaccinated at highest risk.
“Sadly, we are going to see circulating virus or variants of concern for at least another year until we can get a majority of the world vaccinated. Look, it took a long time for WHO to get polio eradicated and of course we havent seen many diseases eradicated, its very hard work. But given that this is a pandemic and everybody is thinking about getting rid of this and getting back to normal life, we should be able to vaccinate faster than polio but nevertheless its not going to happen in a year. At least a couple of years,” Prof McLaws said.
Prof McLaws said countries cannot relax not until enough, everybody in the globe vaccinated.
“And dont forget, the more people arent vaccinated, the more likely we are going to get variants of concern or variants of interest. So really its in everybody’s best interest that we get everybody vaccinated. Quite frankly we are way from that goal just yet. World vaccination rate is as I was looking at 39 percent of the total global vaccination have been vaccinated and thats not really yet high enough,” she said.

Hopefully there wont be any reports of shortages of vaccines at vaccination sites like April this year. As long as Zimbabwe doesn’t increase vaccination centres, and ramp up the fight against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, introduce European and American made vaccines, the road to herd immunity will take longer than anticipated.

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