MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kennedy Malama says getting a COVID-19 vaccine early, before the predicted fourth wave, will save lives.

And Malama has asked people to stop spreading myths about the vaccine.

Speaking when he appeared on a Diamond TV’ programme sponsored by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) project, Thursday evening, Dr Malama said no person who was vaccinated against COVID-19 had died.

“Getting vaccinated early will save you today and also from the potential fourth wave which we project may come at the end of this year into early next year. If you get vaccinated now, you allow your body to produce the antibodies in the next two weeks or a month. By the time you are faced with exposure to COVID-19, you stand a high chance of no severe disease, being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19,” Dr Malama said.

“Today, only one person we can say who may have died while they were vaccinated and that person was two days before. And on further investigations, we identified that there were some other underlying situations they were carrying so we ruled out COVID as the cause of death. Out of the people that we have vaccinated, we have not lost anyone who was vaccinated. But we continue seeing a number of people admitted who are not vaccinated. We have not vaccinated so much but it is important that we put it on record that we are confident we are on the right track but scaling up the vaccination.”

And Dr Malama lamented that people were spreading myths on the vaccine.

“This is the time people need to show solidarity and support. This is a serious matter. As we are speaking now, we have people on oxygen who are in disgrace and they require sympathy. And there you are peddling lies trying to confuse members of the public when there is evidence that seeking medical attention early saves lives. Avoiding treatment which is not approved saves lives. There are people who don’t mean well. There are people who thrive on the suffering of others, who thrive on causing chaos, that is just their nature. Unfortunately, they have misled quite a number of people,” he said.

Dr Malama said bodies of people who died of COVID-19 should be handled with caution.

“When someone dies from COVID, the body has to be handled with caution. Yes, the virus can be alive for sometime, and then after that, it dies and the body may be safe to handle. But COVID-19 is infectious and what we guide is that when someone dies of COVID-19, our safety officers or public health inspectors or environmental health personnel, they need to guide that particular family on how things should be handled. People need to be protected. You need to make sure that you are gloved up and you wear other necessary subscribed personalized protective equipment. We are still learning a lot about COVID-19,” Dr Malama said.

“There are environments where the virus dies quickly and in some cases, it may persist but you may not know. And the way we mourn in our tradition, some people would touch the body as they are mourning, they are emotional and you may contract it there. So we have always appealed to the people that when someone dies of COVID-19 at the point of interacting with our staff, they are guided on how the funeral and the burial program should be handled.”

And when asked by a caller identified as Richard Nyambe on why government was strict on the closure of bars and nightclubs when other businesses were operational, Dr Malama said most bars were not properly ventilated.

“We have been constituted as a government in our guidance and we say those are painful decisions which were made by the government. And we had to navigate delicately between saving lives and preserving livelihood and the economy of this country. We are aware that enterprises such as nightclubs, bars and casinos have been adversely affected. But here is an example, if I am in a night club or a bar, the chances of me masking up is zero. Most of our night clubs are poorly ventilated,” said Dr Malama.