SPECIAL Advisor to the President for Covid-19 Dr Roma Chilengi says Zambians are now doing away with myths and misconceptions surrounding Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Chilengi says the nation needs to reach zero transmission to avoid a fifth wave of the pandemic.
In an interview, Dr Chilengi said the Ministry of Health was considering door-to-door campaigns to get more people vaccinated.
“Firstly I would like you to understand that Zambian people are generally smart people, they know what is good for them. I think when we introduced the vaccines there were a lot of myths and misconceptions, [but] I think everybody now knows that the vaccine is safe because so many of us who have been vaccinated are still here, we are not becoming monkeys or monsters,” he said.
“We have continued to advocate and educate the public so our campaign continues through all structures: schools, traditional leadership, public and private. In the coming days we will engage with higher learning institutions led by university students etc. So the advocacy and awareness continues.”
He said the Ministry would launch a massive campaign in April and June to reach the unvaccinated.
“So we are working on a campaign which will start in April, first round in April then last round in June because June is the big date. There will be a massive drive to push the vaccines to the people,” he said.
I think that when we began we were telling people [that] vaccines are available, we then quickly realized that adults who are healthy don’t easily take themselves for vaccination and then there was a lot of myths, rumors, misconceptions so there is a lot that we are doing to detach myths and rumors and misconceptions and then we also realized that the last mile will be tough because it will require taking the vaccines right to where people are. It will require an effort where you even start going door to door especially in difficulty-to-reach areas, knocking on peoples doors and checking if they are vaccinated, if not, whether they want to get vaccinated.”
He said the only way to avoid a fifth wave was by reaching zero transmission.
“I wish I could say no that we will not anticipate the fifth wave but I think the truth is that there is reason to anticipate. The question is when? We are not reaching zero transmission so even when it is under control, we still have some infections going on, that’s how variants emerge so you may have a variant emerging that then causes a big outbreak, then you may have a fifth wave. So as long as we don’t reach zero transmission a fifth wave is always possible. You know when we manage to reach zero transmission we will now be talking about the elimination agenda, and if you can’t talk about elimination then it is inevitable that a fifth wave is coming,” he said.
Dr Chilengi said social media had a negative effect on the Covid-19 campaign because it was used to spread myths about the pandemic.
“Social media has been a negative vice in that while it can be used to deliver a lot of positive information, I think it was used a lot by people with anti-vaccine movement and also contributed a lot to the negative myths and misconceptions. But I think as I said those myths and misconceptions are temporal because the things people were talking about that mark of the beast you know, the phone is going to stick on your hand, no you might die after a short time, all those things are now leaving evidence that they are not real,” said Dr Chilengi.