A local medical doctor, epidemiologist and Public Health experts, Dr Grant Murewanehma has taken it upon himself to use his social media presence to raise awareness around the ongoing COVID-19 national vaccination drive in a bid to dispel myths and conspiracies around the vaccine.
By Michael Gwarisa
Zimbabwe received its first consignment of 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine a fortnight ago and according to the Zimbabwean government, the first phase of the vaccination program is targeting frontline workers such as health care workers, educators, customs and clearance personnel, Journalists amongst a host of others.
According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), a total 188843 frontline workers have been vaccinated since the commencement of the program last week. However, conspiracy theories and misinformation around the vaccine have been on the rise, in some instances leading to resistance and a slow uptake to the vaccine even amongts health care personnel.
Talking to HealthTimes, Dr Murewanhema said vaccine phobia was rampart in Zimbabwe hence the need to raise awareness through using available channels such as social media.
I posted to encourage my peers and the general public at large to see that the vaccination programme is really going on in Zimbabwe, that vaccination is safe, and that qualified medical professionals have accepted, embraced and taken the Sinopharm vaccines despite several falsehoods being circulated on several social media, and thus help in a way I can to deal with vaccine hesitancy.
“By sharing I hope to allay fear and anxieties experienced by many, especially as there have been religious threats and other threats to uptake of vaccines as popular prophets and conspiracy theorists work hard to dissuade the public from taking up the vaccines. I am hoping that people can learn from our experiences. And will therefore continue sharing my experience and those of others until we receive our second doses. And then shall continue to give updates for up to almost a year or more,” said Dr Grant.
He added that he has been encouraging his peers to continue sharing their experiences so that we can all learn from it. And in this day and age where many are active on social media we believe this may be an effective way of reaching huge numbers and helping to dispel the several myths and misconceptions around vaccination.
“As you can imagine the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our lives as a whole, disturbing all aspects of livelihood. We have suffered several socioeconomic challenges, schools have been closed, healthcare services have been trimmed to a minimum and we have not been able to go on holidays and visit our friends and relatives as much as we would have wanted to. Our relatives have died and we have not been able to attend their funerals.
“We have not been able to attend weddings and church services for almost a year now and I for one would want to see these aspects of our lives returning to normal. We have been practising all we can including physical distancing, masking-up, avoiding unnecessary travels etc and we have been locked as part of public health interventions you control the spread of the virus. However, we need an additional layer of protection, and vaccination adds to this. Vaccines have been one of public health’s greatest success stories as far as the control of infectious diseases is concerned, and we are hopeful that SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will help us in this regard.”
He also said vaccines were not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe and the public should shun conspiracy theories and embrace science and facts.
“I have been vaccinated several times since childhood, and in adult life I have received additional jabs including Hepatitis B, H1N1 and others as a frontline healthcare worker. So to me I was eagerly awaiting to be vaccinated, and this process was as smooth as the previous ones. Of course a little sting upon pricking but that was it.
“I am on my sixth day since I was vaccinated and I have encountered any early adverse events. Conspiracy theories will always be there, but fact check from reliable sources/websites/government websites and scientific publications helps to clarify situations. I also source information by trained and qualified healthcare professionals and research widely.”