NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

Persuasion, not coercion is the way to go on COVID-19 vaccine


GOVERNMENT’s threat to bar unvaccinat­ed citizens from accessing public places and facilities to enable the country to achieve its herd immunity target against COVID-19 cannot escape scrutiny as the move borders on coercion. President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said although the vaccinatio­n programme remains voluntary, government would make it difficult for unvaccinat­ed citizens to mix with the rest of the population. While Mnangagwa’s argument is valid from a medical point of view, it is his government’s approach and lack of adequate informatio­n about the vaccine that have made citizens sceptical of the whole exercise.

All people want is proper awareness on how the vaccine works and its possible side effects.

But it looks like government is not prepared to take that longer route of educating the citizens, choosing the easier route — coercion, which goes against all facets of democracy.

Besides the general scepticism over the efficacy of the Chinese-donated Sinopharm vaccine, coupled with the opaque manner the deal was sealed, citizens are also questionin­g why government officials have opened fresh negotiatio­ns for procuremen­t of other vaccines like the Chinese Sinovac, Russia’s Sputnik V, India’s AstraZenec­a and United States’ Johnson and Johnson if Sinopharm is the best, as they claim. This on its own destroys public confidence in the vaccine, especially where trial results remain unknown.

Instead of forcing people, the government should engage key stakeholde­rs like health profession­als on the most suitable vaccine and then roll out massive awareness campaigns to dispel fears the public , including nurses, might have about the vaccine.

If people are well informed, there won’t be much resistance unless, of course, if it’s on religious or cultural grounds.

Mr President, no one desires to die and this explains why a lot of home remedies were put on trial at the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 which nearly overwhelme­d the country’s health system and claimed more lives than during the first wave.

Even die-hard religious fanatics can still cast aside their beliefs and accept modern medication as long as they have been given the right informatio­n.

Informatio­n is power; people should be empowered to make informed decisions.

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