Medical workers have been reluctant to take Covid-19 vaccinations in Zimbabwe, the nurses union said Friday, citing a lack of clarity over whether it protects against a virus variant that emerged in neighbouring South Africa.
Zimbabwe started its innoculation campaign on February 18 with doses developed by China’s Sinopharm, becoming the first nation in southern Africa to administer the vaccine.
But Enock Dongo, president of the 12,000-member Zimbabwe Nurses Association, said that “the uptake of the vaccine is low among health workers”.
“As things stand, people are reluctant,” Dongo told AFP.
“We agreed to let our members decide whether to be vaccinated or not,” he added.
“We need information on the safety of the vaccine, its possible side effects if any and the percentage of protection against the South African variant which is prevalent in the country.”
According to its developers, the vaccine is 79 percent effective against coronavirus, but its efficacy against the new more contagious variant is still unclear.
Zimbabwe received 200,000 Sinopharm doses, a donation that China has promised to double, with the government buying another 1.8 million doses.
The coordinator of the government’s national response to the pandemic, Agnes Mahomva, said the reluctance “is very normal for a new programme,” but was confident that uptake would increase in the coming weeks.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was the country’s first person to be vaccinated, aiming to bolster confidence among health workers.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday warned that those who decline to be vaccinated could be denied access to services in the future.
The country, already struggling with a deepening economic crisis and scant health resources, hopes to vaccinate 10 million of its 14.5 million population, to reach what is believed to be the herd-immunity threshold.
As of Thursday, more than 35,000 Covid-19 infections had been diagnosed in Zimbabwe, of which 1,458 were fatal.