THE Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) has hailed the Ministry of Health’s decision to lift the wearing of masks in 22 districts, saying this will encourage other areas to work harder.

On Monday, Health Minister Sylvia Masebo announced the lifting of wearing of masks in the 22 districts which had so far attained vaccination coverage above 70 percent.

Commenting on this in an interview, Tuesday, ZMA president Dr Crispin Moyo said the move would help increase the vaccination coverage.

“It is a positive move for us, it will encourage vaccination. It will encourage other districts to work harder, it will help us increase our coverage. It will also increase the acceptance of vaccination, especially by the people who were not pro-vaccines in the early days. The Ministry of Health and Zambia National Public Health Institute were monitoring the vaccination coverage in the districts. So, from just that information, the Minister was able to make an assessment,” he said.

Dr Moyo said the districts where the wearing of masks had been lifted would not be adversely affected by those from other areas because they had already achieved herd immunity.

“Vaccines prevent infections; if you get infected, vaccines reduce the severity of the disease, hospitalization and even death. So you will see that the districts that have their mask mandates relaxed, will not be adversely affected by people who are coming from outside because there is already herd immunity in that district. The only caution that we need to have with this measure is that we should have active surveillance, on one, how long the vaccine remains effective in people’s bodies. Those we need to keep monitoring, how long the vaccine remains effective and then come up with measures to re-vaccinate some of the people whose immunity may be waning,” said Dr Moyo.

“It’s still a risk for people who have pre-existing conditions. People with hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Those, the masking is almost a requirement for them despite them being vaccinated. Another thing we need to monitor is the variance; how the variance is emerging. But with vaccination, you will see that variance will not emerge as much as they will emerge if there is no vaccine.”