ACTING Minister of Health Charles Milupi says government is concerned about the low COVID-19 vaccine uptake among Lusaka residents despite being the epicentre, every time there is a new wave.

Speaking during a Covid-19 briefing, Friday, Milupi said Luapula and Western Provinces had progressed well, with above 50 percent of their eligible populations having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“I am impressed and pleased to report that Luapula and Western Provinces have progressed well, with above 50% of their eligible populations having received at least one (1) COVID-19 vaccine dose. The two provinces have also gone beyond half of their eligible population fully vaccinated. Except for Lusaka and Muchinga provinces, the rest have at least 35% of their eligible population having received at least one (1) dose. Government remains concerned over residents in Lusaka Province, who despite being the epicentre every time there is an outbreak characterised by overwhelming hospitalisation and deaths remain behind in uptake of vaccines. Even with the advantage of easy accessibility to the vaccines, they remain complacent. It is important that we all take responsibility, make a safe choice and get vaccinated,” he said.

Milupi said government was also impressed that 53 districts out of the 116 districts had reached a vaccination coverage of 50 percent and above.

“At District level, we are impressed to note 53 districts out of our 116 districts have reached a vaccination coverage of 50% and above for at least one dose received; this includes everyone who has received only one dose and those who received more than one dose. On the other hand, eight districts have recorded over 50% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. These include Chembe, Chienge, Luampa, Luangwa, Lunga, Mwandi, Sesheke and Shibuyunji. This success of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been necessitated by the strong partnerships, multi-sectoral in nature and well-coordinated response. We remain appreciative to all the supporters in the fight against COVID-19. I wish to reiterate that the COVID-19 vaccination coverage needs to be over 70% to provide herd immunity and protect even those eligible for vaccination. Therefore, let us not tire or relent until we get good protection at community and individual levels,” he said.

Milupi said the Ministry of Health had managed to vaccinate over a million people since the vaccination campaign started.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 has been noted as a game changer in the prevention and control of the disease. We see many people protected from re-infection and less severe disease among those that are infected or re-infected. It is for this reason Government has put in great efforts to ensure all eligible people in the country have access to the vaccines. The 10-day vaccination campaign that was launched on 14th May 2022 has seen over a million people in the country access either a first, second or booster dose. We are elated to note that our national average is fast approaching 30%,” he said.

“This strategy of a community-based campaign leveraging on the Local Authority structures has been a game changer through the campaign. It has provided for a crucial but narrow window of opportunity to shield an increasing number of individuals with lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. As I announced yesterday (Thursday), we have extended the vaccination campaign for another five days to ensure we reach the missed eligible populations. It would be sad to miss this opportunity for community-based vaccinations, as it would negate the hard-earned gains from two years of pandemic response.”

Meanwhile, Milupi said an electronic QR coded COVID-19 vaccination certificate was available and could easily be downloaded for use during travel.

“Before I go into detailing the current status of the COVID-19, I wish to speak into travel guidelines in general. Recently, Zambia indicated that those travelling into Zambia need not have a PCR test done if they are fully vaccinated. This is similar to the requirements in many countries. Furthermore, an electronic QR coded COVID-19 vaccination certificate is available and can easily be downloaded for use during travel. Recently we have heard reports indicating persons without electronic COVID-19 vaccination certificates being denied entry and sometimes subjected to testing in some countries. The instructions to download an electronic certificate are easy to follow and can be accessed on the Ministry of Health and ZNPHI media platforms. Persons who are not able to retrieve their details are encouraged to visit their vaccination centre to verify their information,” said Milupi.

“We have made good progress in our COVID-19 response, but remain wary of the fact that the pandemic is not yet over yet. We need to continue protecting our families and communities in order to revert to normally safe and meaningful lives. With the coming cold season and imminent 5th wave, we emphasise that while we can gather, safety to prevent transmission of disease is emphasised by meeting in smaller groups, outdoors, and for shorter durations. Let us continue to encourage our family members, especially the elderly and those at high risk, to get fully vaccinated and boosters. Remember NO ONE is safe until everyone is safe.”