RESIDENT Doctors Association of Zambia president Dr Brian Sampa has urged government to train and engage the unemployed health care workers in the vaccination campaign exercise in order to reach the target within the shortest possible time.

In an interview, Dr Sampa said the relaunch of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign showed government’s commitment to ensuring that citizens were safe.

He, however, urged government to put in place a dedicated team which could be going door to door in order to increase the vaccination numbers.

“When we saw the relaunch of Covid [vaccination programme], it showed the government’s commitment towards ensuring that its citizens are safe. Now, this should not just end with the government doing that, the citizens also need to play a role. They have a major role to play by ensuring that they adhere to what they are being advised by the health experts. To start with, we are here relaunching because the response was poor. So we just want to encourage the people to get vaccinated. Whatever is being done, wouldn’t have been done if people had responded favourably in the beginning. And we look forward, looking at a situation where the government also ups the scale in terms of the vaccination centers. We need now to have a dedicated team which can be going door to door and that is going to increase the numbers. Sometimes due to economic hardships, people would rather stay where they are doing something which is bringing them money than to go and queue up to get vaccinated,” he said.

Dr Sampa urged government to train and engage the unemployed health care workers in the vaccination campaign exercise.

“Let us make the vaccination very convenient for the people so that they can still get vaccinated in the comfort of their workplaces and other places. And that can only be done if we tap into the potential of unemployed health workers, let us use these unemployed health care workers who are huge in numbers. The government can mobilise resources, there is a lot of money coming for Covid-19, let them use that [same] money to mobilise these unemployed people, put them in groups, train them, let them go flat out the entire country. We can even reach 90% within the shortest possible time if we are just committed,” he said.

“What has been happening where you want to use the dedicated staff in the hospitals to be the ones administering vaccines, [it] is very difficult to achieve the goal. If you remember the past experiences when it comes for instance HIV, when the HIV testing started, we used to have poor numbers. But when the organisations came in and they started using other people who were just committed to HIV, even up to now we just have certain staffs who are just committed to HIV, them their only thing is HIV. We have seen that a lot of people have been tested and a lot of people are now on treatment because of that dedicated staff. And the same can be done, let us have dedicated staff for Covid-19 who can go flat out on this campaign and I can assure you we are going to reach even 90% of the people who will be vaccinated. But if we continue like this, it’s going to disrupt the service delivery where those people are coming from. [This] has been the case in the past where they were using the same people who were working in facilities to champion the vaccination.”

Dr Sampa said launching and relaunching the COVID-19 vaccination campaign alone won’t change anything if there was no change in strategy.

“So to prevent that, to ensure that there is no disruption in service delivery, we now need to come up with a way in which we can utilise the human resource we have, which is not yet committed by the government. We can use them and we have proposed this before, we even wrote the budget we had written to Ministry of Health before last year but there was no response, we even spoke to the Covid coordinator then, the national advisor for Covid-19, we spoke to him and still there was no response. That’s why we are here, if those things were done last year, today we couldn’t be here. So let us try something different this time, let us go flat out and we are optimistic that it’s going to change something. Otherwise launching and relaunching alone won’t change anything if we don’t change the strategy,” said Dr Sampa.