EDITORIAL COMMENT: Vaccination enters faster modes More than 80 percent of Zimbabweans identify as Christian, according to the national statistics agency, but there's no one-size-fits-all solution to convincing hesitant religious citizens to get vaccinated.

The national vaccination programme is now moving into a much higher gear with vaccine supplies now secured and the vaccination teams managing to jab more than a third of a million arms each week, a rate that will see around 1,5 million doses used every month, with promises to speed this up further.

At the same time far more Zimbabweans are willing, or at least not unwilling, to come forward although some are now being prodded by employers, colleagues and families to go and get their jabs. 

Objections are becoming less rational as by now most religious leaders have endorsed vaccination and it is obvious that the side effects are non-existent or trivial.

The supply chain had been a bit of a problem last month, as there was a global shortage of vaccines, but our Chinese suppliers now appear to be prepared to allow us to increase our orders. 

Payment, as Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mthuli Ncube carefully explained at the weekend, is not and never has been a problem.

In fact he has not had to do any dramatic financial gymnastics since the fiscal reforms, backed by President Mnangagwa and the rest of the Government, went beyond balancing the budget and created modest surpluses that he could tap when modest emergencies, like buying 20 million doses of vaccines, arose.

It should be noted that Zimbabwe’s growing strength and good economic management created the budget surplus last year now being used to finance the vaccines, despite the extra spending required by the Ministry of Health and Child Care to upgrade health facilities and hire more staff and the cash that had to be found to help overcome economic problems and social distress caused by the lockdowns used to fight Covid-19.

The reforms of the Second Republic have given Zimbabwe a degree of resilience that it has never really enjoyed before and as this emergency recedes that secure base will allow even faster economic growth.

In fact the general success of the whole national battle against Covid-19 should give Zimbabweans that self-confidence, sometimes lacking, to tackle and solve our many other problems and push ahead. We do not have to sit around wringing our hands: we can act effectively.

Now that our supply chain through direct purchase and through continental and global programmes is assured, there is obviously the need for the delivery side, the vaccination teams and the logistics that support them, to be top notch.

The rapid improvements in the last fortnight have seen a lot of progress.

The 14 days to Sunday saw 635 914 jabs, and that is around 30 percent of the 2,127 million jabs we have done since the national programme started in February. 

And the rate is accelerating with new daily records being set all the time. The present daily record, set on Tuesday last week, is 69 699 and no one expects that to last long.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro outlined at the weekend new measures to not only increase the daily rate of jabs, but just as importantly the measures to make it easier and more convenient for everyone to come forward. 

The programme has now moved to almost all council clinics, so it is not just hospitals, and the Health Ministry is making arrangements for police stations to host vaccination teams, a good idea since the police have a presence in most communities. Besides that there are more outreach teams moving around.

This is important, not just for convenience, but to minimise travel and movement.

Zimbabweans need to be able to get vaccinated as close to their homes or workplaces as possible since we also have to retain the lockdown provisions that are working to beat back the third wave and minimise the infection and death rates.

There is still some reluctance in some quarters to get vaccinated, that reluctance largely coming from American anti-vaxxers, either being picked up directly or passed along by Zimbabwean intermediaries. Some of the anti-vaxxers are even trying to use religious arguments. 

Most Zimbabweans need to realise that for some weird reason vaccination acceptance in America seems to be driven by politics, and the more right-wing you are the less likely you are to accept vaccination. 

Zimbabweans tend to be more sensible. It would be difficult to find a Zimbabwean who knows, let alone cares, how their doctor voted in the last elections. The question Zimbabweans ask when choosing a doctor is: “Are they good?” 

Most of the religious arguments tended to come within evangelical circles or among those who reject medical treatment. 

But by now most evangelical pastors in Zimbabwe have endorsed vaccination, or at least said there are no theological objections, despite what appears on some websites. Those expecting miracles should remember there is excellent authority that “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”.

And when it comes to medical treatment, well vaccination is technically not a treatment, but rather a preventative measure, more like eating decent food to stay healthy rather than taking a pill to get better. 

Already a growing number of religious leaders in such groups have come out in favour of vaccination.

So as shipments become more frequent, the distribution chain becomes ever more efficient, objections recede, and pressure from employers, families and friends grows, the chances of Zimbabwe obtaining the necessary high levels of immunity by year end or early next year to allow major relaxation in lockdowns and a gradual return to normality appear brighter.

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