Political leaders should encourage supporters to get vaccinated

Mukachana Hanyani

It is now over a year since Covid-19 broke out in the country after it started in the Wuhan city of Hubei province in China. To date over 4 million people have succumbed to the disease worldwide and Zimbabwe has registered over 2700 deaths and still counting.

Since there is no cure, medical researchers globally have been working on vaccines and several of these have been produced among others; the Pfizer/BioNtech, Sll/Covisheld, AstraZeneca/AZD1222, Janssen/Ad26.COV2.S, Moderna (mRNA 1273), Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V. All these are aimed at doing the same thing – immunity to the virus and some are able to stop transmission according to the experts.

China was among the first countries to make a breakthrough in coming up with two vaccines that could prevent people from being affected by Covid-19. The vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac doses, have been used by many countries around the world to protect their citizens against the virus.

Zimbabwe which had cordial relationships with China since the time of the armed struggle received about 200 000 Sinopharm vaccines from this eastern powerhouse country. The donation of those vaccines from China came at a time when the country was grappling with ways on how to commence the vaccination programme.

So with the arrival of those vaccines, on 19 February 2021, Zimbabwe rolled out its first vaccination program with the Vice President of Zimbabwe who is the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Rtd, General, Dr Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga being among the first people to get vaccinated,

While everyone in Zimbabwe was expecting people to follow suit in receiving their jabs, political leaders especially from the opposition political parties began raising unwarranted concern over the Chinese vaccines. They mislead their supporters that Chinese vaccines were not effective enough to fight the ravaging Covid-19. By so doing their supporters followed suit with some saying that they won’t get vaccinated before getting any signal from their leaders.

A staunch supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC A) in Kwekwe, 29-year-old Mateline Chiwandamira in March 2021 said he was waiting for a signal from the party president, Nelson Chamisa, whether or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. “I am waiting for a signal from our president Nelson Chamisa whether to get vaccinated or not”, said Chiwandamira in an interview with online publication Harare Post.

As politicking around vaccines heated up in the country, many party workers, like Chiwandamira, remained sceptical, waiting for their party leaders’ nod to get vaccinated.

While political leaders are playing games with how and when their supporters could be vaccinated against Covid-19, the disease is causing havoc globally and the country is currently experiencing the third wave. The unfortunate reality is that the virus is affecting everyone despite one’s political affiliation. Covid-19 will continue to kill more people in the country and only vaccination could lower chances for one to be affected.

With new development in the country that saw some of the opposition leaders beginning to embrace this vaccination programme, one’s prayers will be their supporters will follow suit and embrace the vaccination programme.

On 20 July 2021, MDC Alliance officials, including Secretary-general Chalton Hwende, received praise from many Zimbabweans for finally and publicly embracing the country’s national coronavirus vaccination. It was a welcome move indeed after putting their supporters at risk of contracting Covid-19, as they misinformed them against the Chinese vaccines in favour of western ones.

In a tweet on 20 July 2021, Chalton Hwende had this to say, “Statistics show that COVID-19 infections and deaths are on the rise. To slow down the pandemic Zimbabweans need to make deliberate efforts to get vaccinated. I took the decision to get vaccinated in order to protect myself and those around me. COVID-19 is real. Get vaccinated.”

One hopes that people like Chiwandamira and others who have been waiting for the signal from their leaders to get vaccinated will now decide to take this critical jab that might save their lives and that of their families.

Political Party, church, opinion leaders all have a part to play in ensuring their followers/ supporters embrace the vaccination programme for the country to achieve herd immunity as soon as possible.