IT’s already 10:00 o’clock in the morning at Wilkins Hospital in Harare and journalists from both local and foreign media stables are waiting for the arrival of the Vice President of Zimbabwe who also doubles as the minister of health, VP Constantino Chiwenga to arrive and launch the national vaccination rollout drive.
By Michael Gwarisa
An hour later, the Vice President is yet to arrive and the Journalists are visibly growing impatient. A few minutes later, the VP Caravan pulls in and he heads straight for a debriefing before emerging minutes later to receive his first jab of the Sinopharm Vaccine that was donated by the Chinese government to Zimbabwe.
From the murmuring and whispers making rounds amongst of the Journalists who had come to cover the event, none amongst them appeared ready to take the jab. They all seemed skeptical and hesitant to get a shot. That was until one Cyras Nhara, a Journalist with Aljazeera took the bold step and became the first local Journalist to get the Sinopharm vaccine.
Seven days later, 20 Zimbabwean journalists have been vaccinated following cabinet’s approval of the request to have journalists included in Phase One of the inoculation because journalism is listed as an essential service in SI 93 of 2020 and the media plays a crucial role in providing information that saves lives.
Mirirai Nsingo, a Journalist with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) said the Vaccine is the only shot the country has at returning back to normal together with already existing COVID-19 prevention measures.
Over the past few months, I have lost a lot of close friends and colleagues that I have worked with in the trenches. I have never been so afraid in my life. COVID-19 has never been so near especially after losing close friends.
“That is why I have taken this vaccine; I have been waiting for this moment to arrive and I am glad it is here now. COVID-19 in not a joke. I am so glad that we have also been prioritized as frontline workers and I am also glad that by getting the vaccine, I am also contributing to the attainment of herd immunity,” said Nsingo.
For Leeroy Dzenga from the Herald, taking the vaccine was an easy and personal decision.
“I believe in science; I miss the old times when things were normal. This is why it was an easy decision for me to get vaccinated. Even the quality of stories we are doing at the moment have been affected by the restrictions of Covid-19. This is why I am a proponent of inoculation,” said Lerroy.
However, some journalist were skeptical at first but they have since gained confidence and taken the jab. According to John Cassim a freelance Journalist, even though he has since received his jab, he was hesitant at first to get the vaccine owing to numerous conspiracy theories that have been flying around regarding the vaccine.
“The decision to be vaccinated did not come easy for me, I saw quite a number of colleagues, I have seen official from day one when the vaccination program started. I was so concerned of many things and I had to ask experts whether the vaccine was safe or not.
“A number of them showed me that there is nothing to fear. There was also so much vibe on social media, people discussing about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Discussions are all over where people are somehow discouraging each other not take the vaccine. I was almost persuaded against taking the vaccine but from the researches that I did, I also noticed that this was something not dangerous to take up,” said Cassim.
More than 40 Zimbabwean Journalists have since received the Sinopharm jab.
Zimbabwean Union of Journalists president, Michael Chideme urged government to include journalists in its priority inoculation roll-out list.
“In this unprecedented crisis, the media is now more than ever an essential and emergency service critical in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They offer an unparalleled service in providing the citizenry with verified and fact-checked information on all aspects of COVID-19.
“Chideme said the public depended on journalists to inform and educate them on the fluid environment presented by the pandemic. The act of informing the public on the threat of the coronavirus carries with it huge risks for the journalists, chief among them the risk of contagion. The union, as other sectors, has since lost members due to this virus.”
“Therefore, techniques and mechanisms to ensure journalists conduct safe communication with sources and members of the public should be emphasized and adopted.”