SPECIAL Advisor to the President for COVID-19 Dr Roma Chilengi says Western Province has the highest COVID-19 vaccination coverage numbers, adding that he is confident that the majority of people who attended the Kuomboka Ceremony are vaccinated.

In an interview, Monday, Dr Chilengi said despite the majority not wearing face masks at the event, he was comforted by the high vaccine coverage rates in the province.

“Western Province has the highest vaccine coverage numbers. So we know that a good proportion of people are vaccinated. And what we are saying is that even when you are vaccinated, under the circumstance, because the Covid has not reached zero therefore there is still some risk. So the vaccine gives us a level of comfort but we are still concerned and we are still encouraging people to get vaccinated and I think the vaccine campaign is going on,” he said.

“I was at the Kuomboka ceremony myself and I was masked up all the time. I know that the vast majority of the people were not masked up. But what I can tell you is also that we have been working with Western Province team; health teams and the royal establishment team and Western Province has the highest vaccine coverage rates in this country. So, that gave us a sense of comfort that people are reasonably protected, from the vaccine [coverage rates]. It is not ideal but we would like to make it up to 70, 80 percent vaccination coverage. Then people can be free to do what they want. And I think you will recognize that our friends in developed countries are still having their football games, they are not masked up, that is because they are vaccinated. So we are trying to get to that kind of situation as well, where people are vaccinated and therefore they are free to gather”.

When asked about the number of people who were vaccinated during the ceremony, Dr Chilengi said he was yet to get hold of the exact figures.

“Well I think I have to get hold of the exact numbers because we just returned last night from there, so I haven’t yet been appraised as to the exact number of people who were vaccinated. But generally, there is a very good uptake of people getting vaccinated. But you would have also seen that the prime minister of the Barotse Royal Establishment insisted that people make sure they are vaccinated before they come to the ceremony. We are confident that the majority of the people who were there were vaccinated. We just didn’t actually verify or check people ‘do you have your vaccination card’,” he said.

Dr Chilengi said getting vaccinated was the only way people would protect themselves and get back to their normal lives.

“So the bottom line is that Covid is still here with us and it remains a threat and therefore we are still very concerned. That said, we know that we are pushing very hard for people to get vaccinated because we think that’s the way life should be. That people are vaccinated and protected and they go about with their normal life. Remember what we are trying to do is get back to life as normal as we had it, and therefore people gathering for traditional ceremonies or other congregate settings, that’s a normal life that we have had. Now when there is a threat like we have had in Covid, obviously it becomes a matter of concern and that’s how you see the government stepping in and bringing restrictions of gatherings and encouraging people to mask up,” he said.

Dr Chilengi said the vaccination programme would continue, whether there was a ceremony or not.

“Vaccine campaign is about getting people vaccinated, whether there is a ceremony or there is no ceremony we are continuing to vaccinate more than 10,000 people every day in this country. As we speak now we are busy planning another national wide campaign that will start in the week of 7th May, that will intend to push the vaccination numbers further up. So the fact that people have gathered, it doesn’t mean the vaccine campaign has stopped, no. In fact, even at the ceremony itself, we had teams, we had at least 3 setups of health teams who were vaccinating at the ceremony. So it doesn’t mean that when there is a gathering, then the vaccine campaign has failed or is not working. No, the two are separate issues,” said Dr Chilengi.