Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE vaccination programme that is being rolled out in Zimbabwe to protect citizens from attack by Covid-19 is not a new thing as Zimbabweans have since time immemorial been vaccinated against many diseases.
Known as umnkento/ukuhlaba ihlombe in IsiNdebele, inhomba in Nambya and Shona, kuyaswa nsunda yakutabilizya or butabilizi in Tonga, ukugonya in Xhosa or kenta/bhaya in Kalanga, this has been administered on people especially at infancy against some outbreaks like polio, smallpox, chickenpox, influenza and even yellow fever.
It was both clinically and traditionally administered as people especially traditionalists also had ways of boosting immunity while at home without visiting a health centre.
Some religious groups especially the apostolic sects that were once opposed to any form of vaccination later embraced various Government health initiatives with the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (Udaciza) secretary Ms Ennety Sithole saying members had been encouraged to vaccinate.
Government rolled out the mass vaccination programme targeting Victoria Falls residents first and more than 20 000 have since been vaccinated in the resort town.
Countrywide where the programme is still confined to frontline workers and now on the second phase, more than 139 000 people have received the first dose while more than 23 500 have received the second dose since the start of the programme last month.
Zimbabwe had by Tuesday this week recorded 36 966 cases of Covid-19 including 34 242 recoveries and 1 531 deaths with the deadly pandemic still ravaging the country and the world.
It is unfortunate that despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, there are still naysayers who are spreading scepticism through conspiracy theories in an effort to discourage citizens from being vaccinated.
Even some Government workers who are on the frontline are sceptical about the vaccine with many still to be vaccinated.
What is however, surprising is that many of these people now reluctant to be vaccinated against Covid-19, have been vaccinated against one or more diseases as they grew up.
Government registered four vaccines: Sinopharm and Sinovac from China which are already in use in Zimbabwe, Covaxin from India and Sputnik from Russia as it seeks to achieve 60 percent herd immunity.
The vaccines are inactive vaccines using killed Covid viruses along with a trace of a chemical to stimulate the immune reaction.
The country’s first citizen President Mnangagwa got his first dose in Victoria Falls a fortnight ago while Vice-President Costantino Chiwenga has been jabbed twice, leading Government officials and other high ranking religious, political and traditional leaders in the exercise.
Speaking in Victoria Falls recently ahead of the launch of the second phase of vaccination by President Mnangagwa, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said it is the duty of every citizen to protect others.
“Umnkento or nhomba is not a new thing. Even traditionally people used to lick soil whenever they visit a new area. It’s either you would get into a yard and take a small pinch of soil and lick it or go to a termite hill and eat the soil. This was meant to alert the body of a new environment and prevent attack from fever or any condition associated with the new area. Toddlers also lick soil when they start crawling and those who know will not stop them because that is healthy for their immune system,” said Dr Mangwiro.
He said responsible citizens have a duty to spread useful, verified and important health information to counter fake news whose conviction is to create scepticism.
So far no side effects have been reported.
“However, when you get the dose it doesn’t follow that you can’t get the virus in the near future and that is why people get a second jab.
When one gets the first jab, the body is alerted and the immune system is prepared and produces the IGM antibodies that last for some time in the body. That is why people are given two doses and the second IGG jab is permanent and lasts longer,” said Dr Mangwiro.
Popular traditionalist Mr Jaheliduna Ndlovu popularly known as Mpisi of Monde on the outskirts of Victoria Falls was among the first group of people to be vaccinated in Victoria Falls last month.
He said there are numerous traditional vaccination methods people use to boost their immunity, adding that vaccination is just an English word for something that is practised by almost every citizen.
“You would not travel without taking some water or soil with you which you would mix with soil and water in your destination so that you prepare your body from any reaction to travelling. Even with the coming of modernisation, those who used to travel some years back would confirm that you would not set-off to another country without being jabbed first,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“So let’s not scare people by circulating fake information. Yes, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t get sick after being vaccinated whether traditionally or scientifically but the body will be prepared. When we were still kids or during outbreaks we were all vaccinated against some diseases like smallpox, chickenpox, yellow fever, polio or influenza which people called fleza and our advice is that we should eat healthy, vaccinate and monitor our bodies so that we are immune to some diseases.”
Mr Ndlovu said as a traditionalist, he made the decision to get the dose to encourage others to do so.
“When it started in Victoria Falls I made sure I got mine because I wanted people to learn from me. Let’s embrace vaccination and not be fooled by those who have hidden agendas who benefit from fuelling scepticism because Covid-19 came to destroy humanity. Wherever we are, be it in church, or any religion let’s not mislead people because vaccination prevents attacks,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said there are many traditional herbs that people can use in their everyday life to protect themselves from fever and colds among other diseases.
Chief Shana of Jambezi in Hwange said vaccination is not different from some rituals that communities used to conduct especially when tasting the first fruits from their fields (inxwala/ukuchinsa).
“Inhomba kulapwa (protection) against some conditions hence we urge people to be vaccinated. Culturally elders would consult spirits and use tree roots, leaves, barks and fruits to protect people if there was an outbreak and this is the same thing that is happening. At home we still use some herbs (ukupeyita) and that’s vaccination which is there to protect us because we don’t know what tomorrow holds with regards to our health,” said Chief Shana.
“Communities would not start eating farm produce before people gather to perform first fruits rituals. During the ceremonies everyone would eat specially prepared first fruits from the fields and that was a form of making sure everyone’s immune system was prepared.” — @ncubeleon