‘Think of others’: older people in Zimbabwe dispel skepticism about Covid vaccine | Global development

They, they may be old, fragile and vulnerable, but they are infantry soldiers ahead of the Zimbabwean Covid vaccination operation. Amid widespread skepticism among the younger population, older people are coming out to set an example.

The queues at the vaccination centers in the capital Harare are dominated by older people. At Wilkins Hospital, Felda Mupemhi, 85, grabs a cane as she steps toward a white tent, where nurses give Sinopharm the vaccine.

“We have a chance to beat Covid-19 if we take this vaccine. So I came here to give a statement to the younger ones [generation] that they too can be vaccinated, in order to save others, ”says Mupemhi.

There were concerns that the vaccine could cause her health complications, but after a brief conversation with a healthcare professional, she received the first dose of Sinopharm.

Mupemhi says she was suspicious at first: “I have already rejected the prospect of a vaccine. I was afraid it would trigger some health problems because I was not young. But after seeing that my neighbor, who is my age, was still fine a week after he got it, it gave me courage. “

Peter Hadingham, 82, was initially turned down when health officials listed his age and asthma as possible risk factors, but a few weeks later he was thrilled to be admitted for the first dose.

“I have a bit of asthma and I’m bad in my back, so I can’t walk straight, but otherwise I’m healthy. I have the flu vaccine every year, there is no difference. [People] we should think about the rest of the population – we should get vaccinated, because there is nothing to be afraid of, ”says Hadingham.

An elderly woman vaccinated against Covid-19 at a local hospital on March 29 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: Tafadzwa Ufumeli / Getty Images

Health officials have noted an increasing number of senior citizens taking the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, while Zimbabweans are beginning to soften their stance on the Chinese sting.

“The acceptance from last week is very encouraging. The elderly are coming, and those with chronic illnesses have also visited our centers in large numbers, ”Harare City Health Director Dr. told the Guardian. Prosper Chonzi.

“Our elderly population appreciates being vulnerable. Once you get infected, the chances of seriousness are high, so they jump at the chance. If you are offered a vaccine, and it is free, it is wise to take it, ”he says.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the second phase of introducing vaccination into the country on March 24, covering people with pre-existing conditions, the elderly and those imprisoned in settlements and institutions, such as prisons and refugee camps.

Zimbabwe’s economy was precarious before the pandemic, and was hit hard by the Covid blockades; in March, the World Food Program reported that food insecurity, especially among the urban poor, is growing. Food prices in February were 35% higher than in the same month in 2020.

Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of the largest in the country, was flooded with Covid patients at the height of the pandemic, just after Christmas. Stressed health workers are now working their way through the long line of vaccinations, in stark contrast to the small number that emerged during the first phase of the program. By March 29, about 69,751 Zimbabweans had been vaccinated, up from 43,295 people the previous week.

Zimbabweans receive coronavirus vaccination at Parirenyatwa Hopsital in Harare on March 31.
Zimbabweans receive Covid vaccination at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on March 31. Photo: Aaron Ufumeli / EPA

The government plans to vaccinate 60% of its population to achieve herd immunity, about 10 million people, and received nearly two million doses of vaccine from China, while India donated 35,000 doses of Covaxin in early April.

Health officials say there was initial skepticism about the effectiveness of Sinopharm, which the government said was between 65% and 70% effective. Low intake was also recorded among first-line health professionals during the first phase of the presentation, despite physicians ’efforts to encourage acceptance on social media.

At the Harare Vaccination Center, Malcom Michelle, 65, has been standing in line for an hour and is not happy about the lack of social distancing.

“It is necessary to open more vaccination centers. As you can see, there is hardly any social distancing here. In addition, we simply have to go with the flow, ”says Michelle.

According to Harare City Council, which runs satellite clinics around the city, 24 vaccination centers have been set up, but people still prefer to go to major referral centers like Parirenyatwa, meaning longer queues.

People are waiting in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine at Parirenyatwa Hospital on March 31st.
People are waiting in line to receive the vaccine at Parirenyatwa Hospital on March 31st. Photo: Aaron Ufumeli / EPA

Sean Moyo, 41, is frustrated by the slow pace of the process. “The experience was horrible; I was here at 8 a.m., but I got the vaccine at 12 p.m. I don’t know why the queue doesn’t move. I know of several people who left without vaccination. I’m an asthmatic, so I was afraid I’d get Covid. But luckily, I managed to do everything to be sure, ”says Moyo.

Elizabeth James, 61, is struggling to make a living during a pandemic. She says: “The vaccine is good for some of us who have basic health problems, such as diabetes and hypertension.”

James hopes the vaccination program will allow the country to return to normal, as long periods of imprisonment continue to impoverish millions of informal workers forced to stay home without income.

“When we were younger, we drank herbs [because] “There were no such things as vaccines, but we appreciate the government’s efforts to get us a vaccine, if it’s safe,” she said.