PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says there should be no further debate around the effectiveness of vaccines.
Meanwhile, health minister Sylvia Masebo says while the Covid restrictions in the country have been eased, it is not the time to drop the guard.
President Hichilema relaunched the COVID-19 vaccination campaign at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka yesterday.
On March 18, 2020, Zambia recorded the first cases of the COVID-19.
He emphasised that vaccines work and that all Zambians must get vaccinated against COVID-19.
President Hichilema said his government sees health as a key pillar to human capital development.
He said COVID-19 was not only a danger to one’s life and those of their loved ones but that it threatens the very existence of humanity.
“As we said during the campaigns…one of the things we said is that we’ll manage this pandemic better when we form government. Now we are here; we are walking the talk. Today marks yet another day in us reinforcing our desire to bring under control this pandemic,” President Hichilema said.
He also ‘clarified’ that his Covid advisor Professor Roma Chilengi was threatening nobody’s job.
“[But] he is complementing everyone else’s effort. Very important!” President Hichilema said.
He noted that developed countries might vaccinate more of their people but that if developing countries vaccinate lesser numbers, “we’ll be negating the gains that the first world has achieved in getting their people vaccinated.”
“We’ll become hosts for mutations and it will bite the first world. We made that message clear [at last month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York] and appealed for more vaccines and more support to fight this global pandemic,” President Hichilema said. “We target to vaccinate 70 per cent of our people. Please, let’s move away from 30 per cent [initial target] to target 70 per cent. Then that’s a reasonable head vaccination to bring under control this pandemic.”
He indicated that the relaunch of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign was a call upon all Zambians to rise up and join hands in taking full responsibility and control in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic.
“No one will do it for you! You have to do it for yourself, with your family, with your community. It is very important that we take full control in fighting this deadly pandemic. [It’s] something we have never seen before,” he said. “This is a matter of urgency and it’s indeed a matter of life or death. It can’t be both! It’s a matter of life or death. [If] we do the right things – we respect science – we survive. [But] if we don’t do it, someone dies.”
President Hichilema appealed to citizens to choose life by acting correctly to bring under control the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We therefore ought to rejuvenate our COVID-19 vaccination campaign which is highly necessary,” he said. “From the outset, allow me to state that vaccines work. Vaccines work! Science has told us that vaccines work. Can we settle that debate from today onwards; vaccines work.”
He said Zambians must make that “critical decision” to get vaccinated.
“I’m not talking from without. I have been vaccinated with the vaccine that requires first [and] second jabs. I have taken the two jabs,” said President Hichilema. “My wife, Mutinta, has done the same [and] our children have done the same. So, we’ve provided leadership at the household level. Please, do the same.”
For Masebo, who got vaccinated at the event, it is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a very heavy toll on the healthcare service system.
She said it was for that reason that combating COVID-19 required renewed energy, focus and strategy, as exemplified by the relaunch of the vaccination crusade.
“In this regard, I’m pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Health is taking appropriate measures to ensure that we are ready for a possible fourth wave of the pandemic in a multi-sectoral manner,” Masebo said. “We are increasing our capacity to respond across the various programme areas of our preparedness surveillance and response plan. The Covid vaccination programme is a key intervention in our response. However, as you have reminded many times, the programme needed to be re-energised.”
She added that: “I’m here today to lead by example as I’ll be getting vaccinated today.”
Masebo noted that following the re-launch of the vaccination campaign, provinces, districts, constituencies, wards, branches, chiefdoms and villages would be expected to conduct their launches to ensure all eligible Zambians get vaccinated.
“Similarly, churches, the private sector, line government ministries, quasi-government institutions are all expected to participate in this drive by encouraging their constituents to access vaccinations at the nearest vaccination points,” said Masebo. “Our healthcare workers have been directed to get closer to where our people are, such as markets and bus stations, by conducting outreach services. I wish to reiterate that while the Covid restrictions have been eased, this is not the time to drop the guard. We must continue observing the five golden rules and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”
At the same event, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country representative Dr Coumba Mar Gadio underscored the importance of every Zambian to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Senior chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II of the Soli people of Chongwe district was among several other chiefs present at the event.