Nqobile Tshili and Patrick Chitumba, Chronicle Reporters
BULAWAYO health officials say some pupils are resisting to be vaccinated in the ongoing vaccination programme targeting teenagers aged 16 and 17, a challenge blamed on parents and guardians’ vaccination hesitancy.
Government last month approved the vaccination of minors aged 16 years and above.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care in conjunction with the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry last week launched the vaccination of teenagers aged between 16 and 17.
Bulawayo City Council health department is carrying out an outreach vaccination programme in schools.
Magwegwe High School in Magwegwe suburb; Sobukhazi High School in Mzilikazi suburb; Sikhulile High School in Lobengula and Mandwandwe High School in Nkulumane suburb are some of the schools vaccination teams have so taken the programme.
Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Maphios Siamuchembu said the province made relative progress during the first week of the vaccination programme but some pupils are resisting the programme.
He said they intend to have vaccinated 10 000 pupils who are aged 16 and 17 when schools close on December 17, just two weeks away and so far, they have vaccinated 4 806 children.
Dr Siamuchembu said they have also taken advantage of the programme to vaccinate 1 523 children in schools who are 18 years old and above but are still in school.
“Our aim as a ministry is to achieve herd immunity by the end of this year.
By 31 December 2021 we want to have vaccinated 60 percent of the total population.
So, in Bulawayo we aim to have vaccinated 60 percent of the total of residents in the province.
We are aiming to vaccinate about 10 000 pupils who are eligible but we are getting resistance and refusals. So, this is part of the struggles that we are facing,” he said.
He said apathy among pupils is a reflection of how adults perceive the vaccination exercise.
Dr Siamuchembu said if more parents get vaccinated even their children will be eager to be vaccinated.
“For anyone below the age of 18, the greatest influence is the parent. So, the reasons why adults are reluctant to be vaccinated are the same reasons contributing to children not being vaccinated.
We started a vaccination programme many months ago but we have only vaccinated about 50 percent of the targeted population. People have various reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated,” said Dr Siamuchembu.
“Some are saying they are breastfeeding hence they are not eligible, others have doubts about the efficacy of the vaccine and others are afraid and they think the anti-Christ is in the vaccine. It’s the same reasons that these children are having because they are guided by their parents.”
He said it will be crucial for parents to encourage their children to get vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity.
In the Midlands province, the Provincial Medical Director Dr Mary Muchekeza appealed for more teenagers to get jabbed.
She urged more pupils as well as adults to consider receiving the vaccines in the wake of a surge in new infections in the province.
“A total of 19 114 within the age group of 16-17 vaccinated since 18 November against a target of 92 276.
This is a coverage of 21 percent. We are still encouraging all to embrace the vaccination programme,” said Dr Muchekeza.
She said there is a need for more teenagers to be vaccinated as learning institutions are recording new infections.
“We now have a lot of cases in the province.
The cases are basically everywhere now and everyone should be on their best behaviour in terms of observing Covid-19 prevention measures,” said Dr Muchekeza.
“We encourage all eligible people to get vaccinated, especially now with the 4th wave being in full swing. We cannot afford to let down our guard because some learning institutions have tested pupils for Covid-19 and are getting positive cases.
So, it’s everywhere now. The communities need to be aware of this.”
Meanwhile, a local private school in Gweru has been forced to prematurely end the third term after fears of a Covid-19 outbreak at the school.
Midlands Christian School (MCS) authorities say three of their day pupils in the infants’ section have tested positive to the virus prompting the decision to shut the school for day scholars.
“In the meantime, we feel it is prudent that as a school we take immediate action to control the situation by asking for all day scholar pupils, once they have been collected today (Wednesday) to stay at home until further notice,” reads a letter sent to parents by the school head. – @nqotshili.