Zambians should take advantage of Acting Minister of Health Charles Milupi’s announcement yesterday of a five-day extension to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Throughout the campaign, health workers followed people to various locations where they could be found, such as homes, markets, and bus stations.

Over one million citizens have been immunised against coronavirus in the last ten days, with 436,000 receiving the preventive medicines for the first time. Despite this impressive turnout, Zambia still has a long way to go, with only 2.9 million citizens vaccinated as of Monday this week, in a population of 19.4 million in July, according to UN estimates. 

To achieve herd immunity, the country must capture at least 70% of the population, which requires a significant number of citizens to be coronavirus immune. Zambians will no longer need to wear face masks in public once we reach 70% immunisation because the vast majority of them will be immune to the virus. With the cold season quickly approaching and coronavirus infections on the rise, every citizen should make every effort to get immunised so that if they contract the virus, their chances of becoming seriously ill are reduced.

According to Ministry of Health data, the vast majority of coronavirus admissions, including deaths, involve people who have not been immunised against the pandemic. Although we recognise that vaccination is not mandatory, we believe that getting vaccinated is a personal responsibility for every citizen who cares about their health in order to be productive citizens. Getting vaccinated saves money on vaccine purchases while also assuming personal responsibility for coronavirus protection.

We say this because 99,500 vaccine doses worth K16.5 million expired in Zambia last month due to a lack of attendance. Health Minister Sylvia Masebo announced on May 1st, this year, that funds were being squandered due to the expiration of life-saving medicines that people were hesitant to take.

“Medications expire, and Pfizer’s [COVID-19 vaccine] requires special handling.” The drug will expire if no one comes forward to take it. “These vaccines are costly, and we are wasting resources; we must be responsible citizens who do not waste resources,” Ms Masebo explained. The minister’s message was clear, and it begs the question of why people avoid costly immune-boosting medications. Some coronavirus vaccine myths keep some people from getting vaccinated, but health professionals have repeatedly assured us that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

If we don’t believe medical professionals, who will we believe? There is no reason to be concerned about the safety or efficacy of the vaccines. As a result, medical professionals should not be the only ones informing the public about the value of vaccinations. Everyone should take part. Sensitization should begin at home, and we encourage community and traditional leaders to play an important role in motivating their communities to get vaccinated. Because the Coronavirus exists, no one should be barred from participating in the pandemic vaccination campaign.

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