Zimbabwe: Leave Covid-19 Charge to Professionals, MDC Alliance Says to Govt

MDC Alliance says there is no transparency and accountability in the choices of Covid-19 vaccines to both the health sector and the entire population.

In a statement weekend, MDC Alliance secretary for Health and Child Care, North American province Simbiso Ranga said medical professionals in Zimbabwe should lead the charge for success against Covid-19.

"How the vaccination program is managed will determine whether Zimbabwe succeeds or fails. The medical professionals should lead the charge for success.

"As much as the government determines policy regarding issues like Covid-19 regulations and vaccine choices, these policies should be based on the best advice of medical professionals and institutions.

"It is therefore essential that these medical professionals be not placed in a difficult conflicted corner as to whether they should promote the vaccination campaign or not.

"We believe that the Zimbabwean government is placing medical professionals between a rock and a hard place because critical choices on Covid-19 vaccines are being made without transparency and accountability to both the profession and the whole population," said Ranga.

Zimbabweans have been skeptical about considering the vaccine uptake introduced by the government.

Ranga posed questions for the government demanding clarifications from authorities.

"Why is it taking so long for the Sinopharm & Sinovac vaccines to get World Health Organization Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)? Are there other cost-effective vaccines that have been approved by WHO that could be suitable for Zimbabwe? Are we utilizing the Covax facility optimally?

"Why did we not take a regional approach to vaccine choice when we know that at least 95% of the Covid-19 infections in Zimbabwe are due to the South African variant? Does South Africa know something we do not know regarding the best choice of vaccines for our region? South Africa is a regional leader with more resources, both scientific and economic, and their choices in this regard cannot be ignored.

He highlighted that China CDC Director had made a rare material public comment regarding the efficacy of Chinese developed Covid-19 vaccines according to the public media but no clarifications had been done.

"We are still waiting for the government of Zimbabwe to clarify to us what he meant and how that should influence our perception of the Chinese vaccines. Whenever there is a development that can have a significant impact on our thinking regarding safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of the vaccines, it is mandatory for the government to come out clearly and illuminate our minds on current government thinking."

He added, "This thinking should not be random and purely political, but should be based on sound scientific advice supported by the experts in the field. Let us borrow a leaf from other countries that have shown a great deal of transparency regarding efficacy and safety issues.

"South Africa, most of Europe and America had issues with the AstraZeneca & Johnson and Johnson vaccines and they communicated their findings and courses of action clearly to their citizens. We expect a similar level of transparency and accountability to the population. It builds confidence in the vaccination program. Vaccine hesitancy is fuelled by mystery and opacity," stated Ranga.

The medical practitioner also urged the inclusion of such institutions like the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe (CPCPZ), the Zimbabwe College of Public Health Practitioners (ZCPHP), and other specialist professional colleges (Physicians, Immunologists, Paediatricians, etc) to make their positions clear as independent professional and academic bodies.

"The Medicines Control Authority (MCAZ) as regulator must speak on behalf of the government. They must clear the air on efficacy and safety. Publish statistics and expert analyses of the program as we go along. We have now given close to 400 000 first doses; what have we learned? We need to hear more from the Zimbabwe National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (ZimNITAG).

"These, and not post-cabinet briefings, are the institutions that will inspire confidence in the population and eliminate vaccine hesitancy."

Meanwhile, Health officials have assured the nation that vaccines being used to combat the disease were chosen after thorough considerations by experts and the government.

Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro told journalists last Friday that doctors had sat down with relevant authorities to decide what was best for the country regarding the vaccines.

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