MEDICAL for Quality Healthcare in Zambia executive director Dr Quince Mwabu says giving targets to those engaged in administering COVID-19 vaccines might result in having cooked-up figures.

In an interview, Friday, Dr Mwabu said the risk which came with having targets was that some people might cook up figures in order for them to get paid.

“We have seen that the Ministry of Health have engaged some of the organisations who have sent some health workers to be convincing people to get the vaccines. But we have noticed something about this organisation which the Ministry of Health are using because some of these staff which they are using were given targets like for instance, one health worker can be given to vaccinate maybe 30 people a day for them to get paid. There is a problem now because some of them are not reaching the target, such that they are putting a false record as if they have vaccinated some people in the community then the rest of the vaccines are being wasted,” he said.

“You know, that is the problem when you are giving a target to a person. People may now end up giving the wrong information that we have vaccinated such people and such people, not knowing that they have not vaccinated [such a number]. All that they are interested in is the number. So, that is where there is a problem. So the Ministry of Health should start monitoring that area because we may think that we have vaccinated a lot of people not knowing that we have only vaccinated a few people. Not knowing that we only have a false record.”

Dr Mwabu urged government to monitor the COVID-19 vaccination exercise closely to ensure that the figures submitted were correct.

“So the Ministry of Health should now start investigating and monitoring ‘is it true [that] people have gotten the vaccine. The number that we have recorded is it true’? ‘Is it true that it is a real number compared to the people who have gotten the vaccines’? That is where there is a problem because we have observed that and we have been investigating about that. You know, out of desperation people want to get paid then they are not doing the right job. They are putting the false record that they have vaccinated this number and this number. So that has to stop and that is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to make sure that the right thing needs to be done,” he said.

Dr Mwabu also proposed a door-to-door vaccination campaign to ensure increased uptake of the vaccine.

“So when it comes to vaccinations, we need to be very careful as a country, the way we do when it comes to polio. The health workers go door to door to vaccinate the under-five children. So we should take that step to make sure that we go door to door and we make sure that we vaccinate people,” he said.

Dr Mwabu, however, said people should not be forced to get the vaccine.

“The other thing [is] we should not be forcing people to get the vaccine. The Ministry of Health should come up with a strategy to make sure that they just convince [people]. They explain the benefit of getting the vaccine, then people will be voluntarily getting the vaccine without any compromise. If we start forcing them, they will be rejecting [the vaccines], then at the end of the day, we will be putting the false record that you have vaccinated this number not knowing that you have done nothing. So we need to be very careful as a country, we may end up recording a lot of numbers that we have vaccinated [this number], not knowing that only few people are the ones who are vaccinated,” he said.

“So we just have to make sure that we engage the community, we talk to them. Where we have reached now, people have an understanding about the vaccines, they have an understanding about the virus. So they are voluntarily now getting the vaccine because they understand the importance of getting the vaccine. But if we start forcing them, a lot of them will be refusing. But talking to them, going to talk to them in the community door to door, engaging them, explaining about the benefits of getting the vaccines, definitely a lot of people will get the vaccine. At the end of the day, we are going to reach 70 percent.”

He regretted that some members of the public thought that the pandemic was over.

“This is cold weather now and this is favourable weather for COVID-19 virus. And as a country we still have a lot of cases of COVID-19, the problem now is the general public. The general public thinks that the COVID-19 [pandemic] is over. We need to be more proactive to make sure that the Ministry of Health should engage the community,” said Dr Mwabu.