ALTHOUGH there have been misgivings from some quarters about the Covid-19 vaccine, we are convinced that Government has been cautious and has not rushed into ordering them without due diligence.
There have even been murmurings here and there that Government has delayed to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine programme when other countries in the region have already done so.
But lest people’s memories are short, didn’t one of the country’s political leaders in January not say the government should not rush to receive and administer the Covid-19 vaccine before knowing its long term side effects.
New Hope MMD president Nevers Mumba in his New Year message, said the government should not take the Covid-19 vaccine until local laboratories and researchers certify that they were safe for Zambians.
The Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo was however quick to assure the nation that the Covid-19 vaccines had been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be safe, effective and will save lives.
He said it was also Government’s priority to conduct a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of any vaccine before importing it.
And this is what the Minister of Health, Dr Jonas Chanda emphasised when he announced the vaccine roll out programme worked out by the government.
The AstraZeneca, and subsequently Johnson and Johnson will be the first pillar of initial vaccines to be rolled out under the Covid-19 Vaccine (COVAX) mechanism in Zambia.
Dr Chanda said the vaccine programme will be done cautiously on a voluntary basis and in a phased manner on a pilot basis.
It is important that the Covid-19 vaccine programme be left to the professionals to handle. After all, no one can deny that it is due to their expertise and dedication that the country has been able to keep the pandemic in check.
The acquisition of the Covid vaccines must also be done by the professionals and we are glad that Dr Chanda has stressed that Government will not tolerate sleazy deals in the procurement and management of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The minister said President Edgar Lungu has guided that a cautious approach informed by science should be taken in acquiring the vaccine to protect the lives of the people.
Dr Chanda said on Sunday that no backyard route would be allowed for the vaccine as Government would ensure transparency and accountability in the acquisition of the vaccine.
With the recent experience that the nation went through regarding the mess at the former Medical Stores Limited, the assurance by Dr Chanda is comforting – that the Zambia Medicines and Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) will check efficacy and safety for all vaccines.
Although these vaccines have already been approved by the WHO, they will be subjected to another test for the Zambian environment.
It is our hope therefore that Zambians should not pay any attention to traditional doomsayers but go by the vaccine programme rolled out by the government.
It is the only way their health will be guaranteed.