TThey may be elderly, frail and vulnerable, but they are the foot soldiers at the forefront of Zimbabwe’s Covid vaccination campaign. Amid widespread skepticism among the younger population, it is the older people who are setting out to lead by example.
The queues at vaccination centers in the capital Harare are dominated by older people. At Wilkins Hospital, 85-year-old Felda Mupemhi grabs her cane as she walks to a white tent, where nurses are administering the Sinopharm vaccine.
“We have the possibility of beating Covid-19 if we take this vaccine. So, I came here to make a statement to the youngest. [generation] that they too can get vaccinated, so we can save others, ”says Mupemhi.
There were concerns that the vaccine could cause health complications, but after a brief evaluation interview with a healthcare worker, she received her first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine.
Mupemhi says she was initially skeptical: “I had already ruled out the prospects of receiving this vaccine. I was afraid it would trigger some health problems as I am not young. But after seeing that my neighbor, who is my age, was still well a week after receiving it, that gave me courage ”.
82-year-old Peter Hadingham was initially rejected when health officials cited his age and asthma as possible risk factors, but a few weeks later he was delighted to be accepted for his first dose.
“I have a bit of asthma and back problems, so I can’t walk straight, but I’m otherwise healthy. I get a flu shot every year, it makes no difference. [People] They should think about the rest of the population, they should get vaccinated, because there is nothing to fear, ”says Hadingham.
Health officials have recorded a growing number of older people receiving the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines as Zimbabweans begin to soften their attitudes toward the Chinese jab.
“The acceptance last week is very encouraging. The elderly are coming and people with chronic diseases have also been visiting our centers in large numbers, ”Harare City Health Department Director Dr. Prosper Chonzi told The Guardian.
“Our older population realizes that they are vulnerable. Once the infection is contracted, the chances of serious occurrence are high, so they seize the opportunity. If they offer you the offer to receive the vaccine and it is free, it is advisable that you accept it, ”he says.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the second phase of the country’s vaccination rollout on March 24, encompassing people with pre-existing conditions, the elderly, and people confined in settlements and institutions, such as prisons and refugee camps.
Zimbabwe’s economy was precarious before the pandemic and has been hit hard by the Covid shutdowns; in March the World Food Program reported that food insecurity, particularly among the urban poor, is increasing. Food prices in February were 35% higher than in the same month of 2020.
Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of the largest in the country, was overwhelmed by Covid patients at the peak of the pandemic, just after Christmas. Now its stressed-out healthcare professionals are working their way through the long vaccination line, a stark contrast to the low number of people who showed up during the program’s first phase. By March 29, about 69,751 Zimbabweans had been vaccinated, compared to 43,295 people the week before.
The government plans to inoculate 60% of its population to achieve herd immunity, about 10 million people, and has received nearly two million doses of vaccines from China, while India donated 35,000 doses of Covaxin in early April.
Health officials say there was initial skepticism about the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine, which the government said is 65% to 70% effective. There was also low acceptance among frontline healthcare workers during the first phase of deployment, despite efforts by clinicians to foster acceptance on social media.
At a Harare vaccination center, Malcom Michelle, 65, has been queuing for an hour and is unhappy with the lack of social distancing.
“More vaccination centers need to be opened. As you can see, there is hardly any social distancing here. Other than that, we have to go with the flow, ”says Michelle.
According to the Harare city council, which runs satellite clinics across the city, 24 vaccination centers have been set up, but people still prefer to go to major referral centers like Parirenyatwa, which means longer queues.
Sean Moyo, 41, is frustrated by the slowness of the process. “The experience was horrible; I was here at 8 a.m. M. But I got vaccinated at 12 p.m. M. I don’t know why the tail doesn’t move. I know of several people who left without getting vaccinated. I am asthmatic, so I was afraid I had Covid. But fortunately, I managed to do everything possible to stay safe, ”says Moyo.
Elizabeth James, 61, has been struggling to make a living during the pandemic. She says: “The vaccine is good for some of us who have underlying health problems, like diabetes and hypertension.”
James hopes the vaccination program will bring the country back to normal as long periods of lockdown continue to impoverish millions of informal workers who are forced to stay home with no income.
“When we were younger, we used to drink herbs [because] There were no vaccines, but we appreciate the government’s efforts to get us a vaccine, if it is safe, ”he says.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism