Victoria Falls Reporter
A massive vaccination programme was rolled out yesterday in Victoria Falls, with scores of people from all walks of life turning up for the process ahead of the official launch by President Mnangagwa tomorrow.
Mr Claudio de Leo (81), together with his wife Maria (80), were some of the people vaccinated yesterday morning at Victoria Falls Hospital.
People with chronic diseases can also get vaccinated but after being screened and cleared by a medical doctor, but they must not stop taking their medication afterwards, health experts have said.
Some of the common chronic diseases are cancer, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, HIV and Aids.
There have been questions from members of the public on whether it is safe for a person with a chronic disease to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Mr de Leo has emphysema, a respiratory condition that causes shortness of breath and has been moving around with a wheeled inogen portable oxygen machine for the past seven years because his blood oxygen level is low.
Nurses had to consult doctors whether to vaccinate him, which they eventually did after getting the nod.
Mr de Leo said he felt protected by the vaccine.
“This means a lot and has a psychological effect to me that as an elderly I am assured to be free from any problem associated with Covid-19,” he said.
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro, who has been in Victoria Falls since weekend preparing for the rollout and official launch of the second phase of vaccination by President Mnangagwa in the resort town, said vaccination doesn’t guarantee instant immunity.
He said breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women are not being vaccinated because that might affect the babies. Under 18s are also not vaccinated because the trials were only done on adults.
However, they are all protected through herd immunity if everyone around them gets vaccinated.
“I want to warn citizens that when you get vaccinated it doesn’t follow that you are already immune. Immunity rises over days until one gets permanent protection. For those with chronic diseases, if you are not OK, wait until you feel well then come for the dose because if you get fever or any reaction you will say it’s a reaction to the jab yet it’s not.
“If one has a condition like hypertension, TB, pneumonia or any other, we are making sure that the disease is stable. We don’t want them to be injected when they already have fever and they attribute the sickness to the vaccine. So it’s important that we understand that if you have pneumonia, fever, cancer, asthma or diabetes it is well-controlled but after you are vaccinated, we encourage you to continue taking your medication,” said Dr Mangwiro.
Chief director curative services in the ministry, Dr Maxwell Mareza Hove urged citizens to open up about their conditions to health staff.
“Those above 60 years are also being vaccinated but after screening because the elderly tend to have other conditions like diabetes, hypertension or respiratory problems. When they are not stable or blood sugar is out of control we wait until they have been cleared by their doctor.
“HIV is equally a chronic disease. If the viral load is low and they are taking their medication with no sickness, they get vaccinated but if the viral loads are still high we wait until that is controlled,” said Dr Hove.
He said those who have had Covid-19 before are vaccinated once.
“By vaccinating we are trying to sensitise the body to get alert that there is Covid-19 disease so it produces a certain type of antibodies. For those who have already had the disease, the body has been put on alert by the natural infection and if they are not sick and are asymptomatic, we can give them but as a second dose because they are already sensitised by the previous infection. If the person is stable we give the vaccine as a booster so that the immune system is stronger,” explained Dr Hove.