Involve Civil Society In COVID-19 Vaccine Processes To Get Community Buy in Says CWGH

THE Community Working Group of Health (CWGH) Executive Director Mr Itai Rusika has called on the Zimbabwean government to engage Civil Society Organizations throughout the the vaccine rollout process since they already have structures and active involvement at grassroots level.

By Michael Gwarisa

His call also comes hot on the heels of an announcement by deputy minister of health and child care Dr John Mangwiro where he said the vaccine would be distributed immediately  after after arrival to all the country’s 10 provinces. This has however not gone down well with other health experts and members of the Civil Society who fear rushing to rollout the vaccine may land Zimbabwe into South Africa’s position where they ordered a vaccine that was about to expire.

In an interview with HealthTimes, Mr Rusike said there was was need for transparency with regard to vaccines distribution and rollout and the safety of citizens should be paramount.

There are many threats and obstacles to the procurement, roll-out and administration of a national public vaccine programme. In recent months alone, the lack of transparency by the government of Zimbabwe about the plans, delays in securing access to supplies and delays in confirming financing arrangements that have not been shared in full highlight why the people of Zimbabwe need an active oversight role in shaping and delivering a national vaccination roll-out programme.

“We hope that the Medicines Control Association of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) will be given an opportunity to carry out routine test to ensure that the vaccines procured are safe ,effective and of good quality before they are administered to the people of Zimbabwe. We call on the government of Zimbabwe to ensure meaningful civil society participation in the national Covid-19 vaccine Task Force and all decision-making around country readiness and vaccine roll-out,” said Mr Rusike.

He added that Civil Society organizations garner trust with communities who may be reticent to accept Covid-19 vaccinations and will help ensure accurate information prevails over misinformation on vaccinations.

“Civil Society organizations are also familiar with and operate in vulnerable communities who may be overlooked or forgotten as part of national vaccination roll-out, and thus will help ensure these communities are included in vaccination plans. We call on our government to follow the WHO SAGE guidance when making national vaccine allocation decision to ensure it is rolled out where needed first.”

Of late, there have been numerous conspiracy theories circulating on various platforms which could stand in the way of the vaccine's rollout in communities if not corected.

“Civil Society can support the government by working with communities to ensure strong demand for, and acceptance of, Covid-19 vaccines, including countering anti-vaccine stories and beliefs. Informed, engaged and empowered communities are the bedrock for the arrival of new vaccines ,treatments and tests that will be introduced to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“The government of Zimbabwe should ensure that adequate resources are made available urgently to support the scale up of delivery system for a Covid-19 vaccine, while ensuring funding is not diverted from other essential routine services and that it does not increase the country’s debt. The government must also ensure that routine services are not disrupted by the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines.”

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