HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says government will not allow any negative propaganda on the vaccination program to win at the expense of scientifically backed evidence.

And Dr Chanda says the country has recorded 145 new COVID-19 cases out of 4,817 and two deaths in the last 24 hours.

In a statement, Sunday, Dr Chanda said the Ministry of Health was finalising a communication strategy which would guide nationwide communication activities to ensure citizens had accurate information about vaccines and the vaccination process.

“The Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) met on Friday 26th March 2021 to consider key aspects of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Among the key issues discussed were consideration of the findings of the report from the Zambian Immunisation Technical Advisory Group providing guidance on COVID-19 vaccines being considered for deployment. The ICC formally adopted the National Vaccine Deployment Plan to guide the roll out, including considerations for the cold chain, in line with Cabinet’s guidance on. COVID-19 vaccinations which are critical to controlling the pandemic, slowing the emergence of new variants, and helping to boost the economy. Zambia has also successfully met all the requirements set by GAVI under the COVAX facility,” Dr Chanda said.

“The Ministry of Health is working to finalise the Communication Strategy which will guide the nationwide communication activities to ensure citizens have accurate information about vaccines and the vaccination process to make informed decisions, as well as address frequently asked questions and dispel myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 vaccines. We will not allow propaganda to win at the expense of scientifically backed evidence. The vaccine programme holds the key to reaching ‘herd immunity’ and eventually getting the country out of the pandemic.”

And Dr Chanda said the country had recorded 145 new COVID-19 cases out of 4,817 tests.

“The COVID-19 situation update for the last 24 hours is as follows: We recorded 145 new cases out of 4,817 tests conducted (three percent positivity). This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 87,872. The new cases broken down by province are as follows: 43 Lusaka, 20 Copperbelt, 17 Central, 14 Luapula, 14 North-western, 12 Eastern, 12 Western, seven Southern, three Muchinga, and three Northern. Of the 145 positive samples, 119 were collected within the last 24-72 hours whereas 26 were older than 72 hours. The province with the highest positivity rate Muchinga (17 percent) while Southern (one percent) had the lowest positivity. Two new deaths were recorded from Eastern one and Northern one. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded now stands at 1,200, classified as 667 COVID deaths and 533 COVID-19 associated deaths,” Dr Chanda said.

“A combined 83 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 84,347 (96 percent). We currently have 2,325 active cases, of whom 2,235 (96 percent) are under community management and 90 (four percent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 74 (82 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 15 (17 percent) are in critical condition. As we go about our activities for the remainder of the weekend, including attending church services and other social gatherings, let us not forget the risk for super spread of COVID-19.”

Dr Chanda said government was grateful for the support given by the USA government in committing K36.75 million to provide technical assistance to Zambia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“Under the able leadership of His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, we continue to observe a reduction in our test positivity, with the overall positivity for the just ended week at 3.7 percent compared to 4.7 percent the previous week and highs of over 18 percent at the peak of the second wave. Similarly, our case admissions have reduced markedly, with today seeing only 90 patients admitted to COVID-19 isolation facilities throughout the country. However, from the lessons learnt from previous waves of the pandemic experienced the world-over, there has usually been a ‘lapse’ of a few weeks before a ‘successive wave’ has reached us. Looking at the current situation in East Africa where a ‘third wave’ has already hit, it is clear that we are potentially close to experiencing one in the next few months,” Dr Chanda said.

“We are grateful for the support of Zambia’s all-weather friend the United States government who have announced a commitment of an additional K36.75 million ($1.75 million) to provide technical assistance to Zambia’s COVID-19 Vaccination campaign, targeted at providing critical technical and logistical support to the Ministry of Health for planning, coordination, and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for Zambians. The US government has worked closely with Zambia throughout the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic to protect public health, strengthen the response to COVID-19, and save lives.”

Dr Chanda insisted that his ministry was working with the Electoral Commission of Zambia to ensure political players adhered to COVID-19 guidelines as the August elections approached.

“It has also been observed that globally in countries currently experiencing the third wave, more and more younger age groups are being affected. Although there is no telling how the third wave may affect Zambia, we must learn from the experiences of other countries and ensure our young people are adequately protected. Therefore, higher learning institutions, particularly universities and colleges, remain a key target for our surveillance interventions. Higher learning institutions should be leading by example, but unfortunately this is where risk behaviour and poor adherence to public health guidance has been observed. In collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, our surveillance teams are enforcing measures and conducting rapid assessments for colleges and universities as we have done for schools, including the classroom sizes and populations of students in boarding houses, to ensure that they are adherent to the public health measures. Any college or university in violation of public health guidelines will be recommended for closure without hesitation,” said Dr Chanda.

“As we head towards elections, we are keenly aware of the dangers of crowded political campaigns which can lead to super spread of the Coronavirus. The Ministry of Health is working with the Electoral Commission of Zambia to ensure the safety of political players and the public, and we appeal to all political parties to ensure adherence to public health guidance before and during campaign period, and elections.”