Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) in partnership with Oxfam Zimbabwe on Friday held a Vaccine Access to Information campaign meeting at Holiday Inn in Harare.
VISET Executive Director Samuel Wadzai in opening remarks said the thrust of the campaign is ensuring that informal traders are equipped with enough relevant and accurate information for them to participate in the vaccination programme as they were the ones affected the most by lockdown measures with no income nor social security.
The meeting which drew participants from informal traders, residents associations and members of the press, sought to ensure informal traders who happen to be at the coal face of most commercial activities, are furnished with as much information as possible on the ongoing vaccination exercise. It is also part of Oxfam International’s global campaign to ensure equitable vaccine distribution in poorer countries.
Key speakers included Trust Africa Deputy Director and Citizens Manifesto Convener Mr Briggs Bomba who gave a global perspective of the vaccination programme and said that the African continent is severely lagging behind other continents, with only 1.15 percent of the population having access to vaccines. Intellectual property rights on vaccines by pharmaceutical companies should be waived to allow poorer countries to manufacture vaccines as part of measures to address this inequality. He said it was important for these companies to put people before profit and that multilateral frameworks that underpin global stability should be employed to counter vaccine nationalism by rich countries.
Harare City Council head of communications Mr Michael Chideme said that there are 24 council clinics that offer vaccination services and that Council is fully equipped to handle the exercise. He also revealed that quite a number of Zimbabweans based in the diaspora were coming to get vaccinated. Mr. Chideme said that it was important for informal traders to take up vaccination as they interact with large groups of people.
Mrs. Rosemary Mudzamiri VISET board member said that vendors were not being prioritised in publicity campaigns by government and that most of the information they came across was through social media, with most of it being fake news such as that vaccines cause sterility and that one was likely to die in 2 years after being vaccinated. She said that vendors with disabilities also needed to be given priority and information given in a form that catered for the deaf and dumb.
A medical doctor, Dr Francis Mutamba also spoke at the same occasion, disclosing that much as Zimbabwe is leading other Southern African countries, it is way behind of other countries globally such as United States of America and Israel. At present Zimbabwe has only fully vaccinated 2 percent of its population and going by the current rate, it will take 188 days to reach just 10 percent of the population that will have been vaccinated.
Mr. Givemore Chipere Executive Director of Community Radio Harare stressed the importance of the media in ensuring that accurate information is availed to the public in order to counter fake news. He also urged journalists to always ensure they are knowledgeable on the subject matter at hand, as well as for public officials to always ensure they are accessible to journalists for them to give official positions on topical issues.
Mr. Tellington Kwashira delivered the vote of thanks expressing appreciation for the platform in that it accorded people a chance to get accurate information on the vaccination programme .