Zimbabwe`s easy COVID-19 victories could be fatal

Zimbabwe`s easy COVID-19 victories could be fatal
Zimbabwe`s easy COVID-19 victories could be fatal

By Joel Mandaza

It has become a norm for the government to overplay its achievements and blow them out of proportion.

Desperate to be seen as doing better than their predecessors, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services has been trying to ride on every little victory.

There has been desperation to frame the government`s COVID-19 response as a huge success.

Every vaccine delivery makes front-page news on daily newspapers currently controlled by the state, even donations see delegations making their way to Robert Mugabe International Airport.

The pomp which characterises every delivery is now being applied to the interpretation and communication of vaccine figures.

On two occasions, the government has claimed that they have achieved herd immunity.

In April 2021, government and state media claimed that the city of Victoria Falls had achieved herd immunity and quite recently, the Public Service Commission claimed that they have achieved 99% vaccination of their workforce.

Health workers have said such claims are not solid scientifically

Dr Ben Mudiwa, a Medical Practitioner and Researcher said there is a chance of inaccuracies in the numbers being put forward by the Public Service.

“For civil service, I think it can be determined by the numbers. If they claim that a certain percentage got vaccinated, then it is theoretically plausible.

However, 99% is not an easy figure to throw around, not many things get that kind of high adoption, there will always be some loopholes, those who can’t be vaccinated so the 99% claim might need interrogation, “said Dr Mudiwa.

The government recently adopted a no vaccine, no work approach which has been described by workers` unions as unfair and inhumane.

Under such circumstances, there are chances some who may be against vaccination due to different factors could have forged their cards, which are proof that one has been inoculated.

Cases of stolen cards have made news, and it would not be unreasonable to imagine that some of the people who have acquired the cards could be part of the civil service, Zimbabwe`s largest employer.

Dr Mudiwa said the Victoria Falls herd immunity claim also needs to be seen with a critical eye.

“The Victoria Falls one is harder to corroborate, as Victoria Falls is not sealed. People go in and out from different places across the world.

It is difficult to claim herd immunity in such a place,” said Dr Mudiwa.

The World Health Organisation has also warned against early complacency based on herd immunity claims.

 “We are still learning about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people. There have also been reports of people infected with COVID-19 for a second time,” WHO said in their explanation on the concept.

“Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity, it will not be possible to know how much of a population is immune and how long that immunity lasts for, let alone make future predictions,” the global health body added.

However, perhaps despite the vaccination victories there is still need for a cautious approach to the way vaccination is framed as a response to COVID-19.

Some countries with better figures are still struggling to contain COVID-19 infections in the fourth wave.

Gibraltar has cancelled Christmas gatherings in the face of a spike in COVID-19 cases, despite having almost every eligible adult as vaccinated.

In seven days, Gibraltar is averaging 1379 infections per 100 000, which is a high number and can force a lockdown.

Zimbabwe has to be careful not to overstate their vaccine figures or their vaccine progress, this is to save them from future shame when the figures start rising again.

There has to be realistic management of expectations.