Opinion & Columnist

Covidi-19 vaccines: grassroots advocacy and awareness

AS drug companies unprecedentedly develop vaccines, hesitancy and misconceptions must be seriously addressed by employing grassroots advocacy and awareness.

Historically, human anxieties and fears have always been attached to vaccines. And to increase the uptake of vaccines, human-centred approaches are increasingly becoming very important.

Since time immemorial, vaccines frequently save human populations from lethal and devastating pestilences.

Today, Covid-19 continues to ravage the whole world since the novel coronavirus emerged from Wuhan, China in November 2019.

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Fortunately, vaccines to prevent a global catastrophe have been urgently developed to ease the burden of Covid-19.

Normally, it takes years to develop a vaccine. But to date, more than 23 vaccines have reached the final stages of testing.

Though several vaccines are already on the market, many people are seemingly hesitant to accept the unprecedented health milestone.

In Zimbabwe, 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were delivered on February 15, 2021. By March 29, approximately 69 751 people had been inoculated.

Essentially, this calls for national introspection. And collectively initiate grassroots advocacy and awareness programmes which ostensibly increase the uptake of vaccines.

Accordingly, human-centred approaches can potentially inspire positive outcomes in immunisation. And grassroots buy-in naturally becomes the hallmark of effective vaccination.

At the grassroots level, traditional, spiritual, religious and political leaders play a significant role in vaccine advocacy and awareness.

Critically, such leaders are highly regarded in society and their influence cannot be overstated. Leaders must co-operatively spearhead vaccine advocacy and awareness.

Conspiracy theories have negatively affected Covid-19 vaccine uptake. And various social media platforms have not helped in any way.

In this digital era, social media users must ethically play a critical role in the dissemination of vaccine information.

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Inoculation is neither the insertion of a technological chip that exposes humanity to social surveillance, nor is it a human population control measure.

Traditionally, vaccines are scientifically inactivated (dead) viruses that work by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against infection.

In fact, vaccination was discovered many centuries ago. In the 1950s, Jonas Salk inactivated viruses to create his polio vaccine.

Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines were developed by inactivating viruses to give immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

However, novel vaccine developments have been based on the virus’s genetic instructions for building the spike protein.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA) – genetic material that our cells read to make proteins. In short, the molecule is called mRNA.

Though adverse affects of inactivated vaccines are widely known, side effects of mRNA vaccines are yet to be observed.

Evidently, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already toxic global politics and power matrix.

Globally, there are principally two competing socio-political ideologies – communism and neo-liberalism.

Neo-liberalism is predominantly from the West, while the East practice communism. Though neo-liberalism is generally individualistic and capital accumulative, communism is nationalistic in nature.

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More importantly, medicine is a billion-dollar business and vaccines have manifestly brought immense jostling for capital gains.

The global debate is, however, on whether vaccines made from the West are more superior to those developed from the East.

Naturally, the West and its allies deliberately promote Western manufactured vaccines. And the inferiority-superiority complexities are increasingly becoming more topical.

Surprisingly, a western-made vaccine, Oxford-AstraZeneca has been suspended in Germany, France and Italy as it is believed to cause blood clotting in some demographic populations.

In South Africa, the use of Oxford-AstraZeneca was halted because it was scientifically impotent to the dominant coronavirus strain.

In Zimbabwe, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine was delivered on February 15, 2021. The exemplary Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Retired General Constantine Chiwenga, opened the inoculation flood gates.

On March 24, the President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency ED Mnangagwa received his first jab in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

The Sinopharm vaccine has since been widely accepted by the generality of Zimbabweans. And with no notable adverse effects recorded thus far, the vaccine is equally proving the naysayers wrong.

Currently, the number of people seeking inoculation has significantly improved with the Government mulling to increase the number of inoculation centres.

Henceforth, the Government must adopt human-centred vaccination approaches. Traditional, spiritual, political and religious leaders must spearhead grassroots advocacy and awareness.

Similarly, health professionals and other frontline workers must lead by example in the vaccination programme. And appropriately disseminate authentic vaccine information to the general populace.

In the same vein, the media must effectively spread comprehensive vaccine awareness messages in local languages to all levels of society.

Ultimately, let’s all play a role in vaccine advocacy and awareness. In the meantime, properly wear your masks, religiously wash your hands with soap and water, and practice physical and social distancing.

Everisto Mapfidze is a registered general nurse who holds a Bsc Honours in Sociology (UZ). For feedback Whatsapp: 263774042111.

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