Trust Issues Blamed For Low Vaccine Uptake in Zim-Study

SKEPTICISM around the Chinese manufactured vaccines, the Sinopharm and Sinovac has to a greater extent hampered the uptake of COVID-19 Vaccines in Zimbabwe.

By Michael Gwarisa

This is according to data that was gathered during a COVID-19 Rapid Assessment that was conducted by Pangea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust between September and October 2021.

Zimbabwe is currently ranked among the highest in Africa in terms of vaccinating its citizens. However, a number of factors have hindered the country’s progress towards attaining herd immunity where an ambitious target of vaccinating 10 million citizens or between 60% and 70% by December, 31 2022 had been set. The Southern African country missed its target with indications that slightly above 30% had been inoculated by December.

To date, 5 718 077 have received their first vaccine dose in Zimbabwe while 3 596 472 have received their second dose and 534 876 have gotten the third dose or booster dose. The vaccination program commenced in February 2021 following the arrival of donated 200,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China. To date, the country has received majority of its vaccine doses from China, with Sinopharm and Sinovac being the dominant brands in the country’s vaccination program.

In an interview with HealthTimes on the side-lines of a two day Science Café in Harare, Gwendolyn Chapwanya, the Pangea Zimbabwe Project Coordinator said over and above mistrust of Chinese Vaccines, they also picked a number of barriers that were cited by people as justification for not getting vaccinated.

The lack of trust in the available vaccines where people were a bit skeptical about the vaccines especially coming from China emerged as one of the leading barrier. The people did not trust the Chinese vaccines. Their question was why are we getting the vaccines from China and not from America,” said Chapwanya.

She added that people also cited lack of information on the vaccines as another barrier. They reported that when the vaccines came, they were just told to go get the vaccines but were not asked why they would want to get vaccinated and there was no information on any of the questions they asked.

“They also cited the long vaccination queues where people would spend up to one to two hours in the vaccination queues. On top of that, they also reported the negative attitudes of healthcare workers where at times the healthcare workers would shout at them. Some in the rural areas talked about the long distance to the facility where they were saying they had to walk between three to five kilometers only to be told there were no vaccines at the facility.

“The issue of myths and misconceptions also played a part in affecting the vaccination 
program. Some indicated that they were told they would die after two years of getting 
the vaccine so they are still waiting to see if those who got vaccinated will die after
two years. Some were told vaccines would cause of miscarriages and vaccination was a plot
to eliminate humanity. Those were some of the myths and misconceptions.”

The Rapid Assessment was conducted as a means of identifying the motivators and barriers to taking the COVID-19 vaccine among the vaccinated and unvaccinated Zimbabweans. The second objective was to document vaccine recipients’ experiences and to provide informational support while the third objective was to gather stakeholder perspective on vaccine rollout in Zimbabwe. A total 250 participants were surveyed and 20 community groups’ consultations were conducted while 50 individuals conversations were held.

These were conducted in Harare at Wilkins Hospitals, Parirenyatwa Hospital, Sally Mugabe Hospital and also Mt Pleasant Clinic and Hopley Clinic. Some interviews were also conducted in Goromonzi at Chinamhora Clinic, Lupane and Gwai Clinics.

From their findings, Pangea  also gathered that people got vaccinated for various reasons with some indicating that they did it to protect their health and that of their family and peers and also to protect the health of co-workers.

“Some also cited that because they had encountered the loss of a family or friend due to CIVID-19, they decided to go and get vaccinated. Some said they witnessed friends and families with severe comorbidities like blood pressure severely affected by COVID-19,” said Chapwanya.

Some also got vaccinated because they wanted to resume social activities and some because they wanted to go back to work. According to findings, trusted information sources for vaccination were healthcare workers, the radio and the media in general.




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