Zimbabwe: When Journalists Tell Deliberate Lies On Vaccines

Correspondent

On June 8 2021, Zimbabweans and the world woke up to a Bloomberg headline: "Zimbabweans protest Covid-19 vaccine shortages" authored by two Zimbabwean journalists.

One of the sub-headlines to the story shamelessly claimed that "The country has experienced demonstrations over vaccine shortages."

The two Bloomberg correspondents were not alone in peddling Covid-19 related lies about Zimbabwe.

Six days earlier, a Voice of America (VOA) correspondent, had also made similar claims.

It is not by coincidence that the fake news items were published by two American media houses.

The stories also came as Government wrote to the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) advising it that it was not ready to receive the consignment of three million Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccines allocated to the country under the African Union's (AU) African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) due to challenges in the country's cold chain infrastructure.

The Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary Mr George Guvamatanga, also advised that Zimbabwe needed to address the likely side effects of the vaccine before accepting the consignment which was scheduled for August.

It should be noted that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is not approved for use in Zimbabwe. Even after Mr Guvamatanga's correspondence, the VOA correspondent was not yet done with peddling lies against his own Government.

Realising that his fake news article of June 2 2021 had largely been ignored, he penned another article which VOA published on June 8 2021 under the headline, "Zimbabwe rejects donation of COVID-19 Vaccine amid shortages."

He roped in Dr Norman Matara of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ADHR) to bolster his "case" against Government.

Dr Matara contended that the Johnson and Johnson vaccines are stored at the same temperatures as the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines that Zimbabwe has been using since February.

The VOA correspondent added one lie upon another in a bid to morally blackmail and pinion Government's hand into accepting the Johnson and Johnson vaccines despite being not prepared for them.

Apart from lying about the non-existent vaccine shortage protests, he further shamelessly claimed that the vaccines were a donation which was not the case.

The correct position is that had Zimbabwe accepted the vaccines, it was expected to pay US$20,5 million as they were not a donation.

The reporter and his Western handlers wilfully feigned confusion between donated vaccines such as those under the COVAX programme and the AU initiative for which beneficiary countries pay.

Put differently, he sought to set the people of Zimbabwe against their Government by claiming that it had turned down donated vaccines, which could benefit them.

While Dr Matara was right that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is administered in one dose, that is the only benefit of the American vaccine.

On June 7 2021, businessinsider.co.za published an article to the effect that the South African drug regulator, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), could not green light the use of the millions of shots of the Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) Janssen vaccine that is currently held at Aspen's production facility in Gqeberha in that country.

SAHPRA is waiting for a report from the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety of the vaccines. The FDA reported rare blood clots in some patients who had received the vaccine, forcing South Africa to stop administering it since April.

Dr Matara is a medical doctor and he should be aware of the clots concerns, but he pretended not to be in the know just to push the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Zimbabwe.

He was part of the United States' Bloomberg and VOA vaccine shortage "crisis" narrative to justify the acceptance of a vaccine despite the serious safety concerns.

One is, however, not surprised by Dr Matara's behaviour. The medical doctor has been part of Western programmes meant to recruit foreigners for use against their governments.

He is a beneficiary of Britain's Chevening Scholarship programme and the Mandela Washington Fellowship, an American initiative.

These programmes prepare beneficiaries for such assignments against their countries and people.

Some citizens accused Government of playing politics by turning down American vaccines because Zimbabwe is not in good books with the Western country.

Zimbabwe is a sovereign country which determines how it runs its own affairs. There is nothing wrong with a country turning down vaccines sourced from a country which sentenced its own people to a lifetime of unbearable hardship though evil, illegal and debilitating sanctions.

Others argued that the Covid-19 pandemic is a life and death matter.

Yes, it is, but Zimbabwe's vaccination programme is one of the best in the region. The country is not in a vaccination crisis. It is fully in charge of the programme. Norton independent legislator, Temba Mliswa also latched on to the vaccine shortage false narrative for some cheap political capital, but found no supporters.

"The shortage of COVID-19 vaccinations (sic) is alarming, especially for those due (for) their second jabs. So what are the effects of either not receiving the second jab, or receiving it late?

"The Ministry of Health and Child Care, how could we have failed to plan this properly?" he tweeted.

The vaccination hiatus that some vaccination centres may have experienced are not a crisis, they are just a temporary supply logistics challenge which Government has full control over.

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa, recently announced that the country is expecting half a million shots by 15 June 2021.

On June 9 2021, Government took delivery of 25 000 shots of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which was acquired for Zimbabwean citizens by the mining company, the Alrosa Group.

The country is set to receive another consignment of similar quantity within a month.

The Temba Mliswas of this world should know that Government is fully in charge of the vaccination programme and has everything planned for, including the financial resources to pay for more vaccines in addition to those received so far.

Recently, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, assured the nation that Government had US$100 million set aside for more doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We have got a deep pocket, sufficiently deep pocket. Zvedu zvakarongeka (Government has everything well planned)," he said during a ZBC interview.

In view of this background, the Mavhungas, Ndlovus, Marawanyikas and the Mataras of this world and their Western handlers should perish the thought of using a temporary vaccines supply glitch to drive a false shortage narrative with the view to blackmail Government into buying American vaccines.

The fact that the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recently ranked Zimbabwe among safe countries with the lowest COVID-19 risk for travellers should be a signal to them that they are fighting a losing battle.

This development should assure Zimbabweans that despite the Americans and their local running dogs' attempts to foist unsafe vaccines on the country, Zimbabwe's COVID-19 vaccination programme remains in safe hands under the able leadership of President Mnangagwa and his team.

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