Jabbing The Young and Social Media Hesitancy.
At the beginning of November, the Zimbabwean government gave the green light allowing children above 16 years to be vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine. Regain37 through the ZimbosAbantu Healthcare on Wheels was fortunate enough to be able to partner with the Ministry of Health, through Goromonzi District and participate in inoculating children.
Over four days, Goromonzi sent six teams across the district to vaccinate children at different schools as well as surrounding communities such as vendors and villagers. Our team was sent to vaccinate children from Findale, Grandeur College, the iconic Goromonzi High School, and Shining Star school. Over five days, the team was able to vaccinate 397 children from this school adding to the nearly 3 770 000 Zimbabweans who have received their first dose.
On one hand we were very excited with our work. A number of people wished us well telling us that they had already been vaccinated prior to our arrival and some had already been vaccinated making them part of the 2 800 000 people fully vaccinated which is about 18.5% of the population. Adding children above 16 years to the vaccination drive is an important action to vaccinate as many people as possible and hopefully reach herd immunity and reduce the chances of variants cropping up.
Unfortunately, not all the children above 16 were willing to get vaccinated*. Some provided the reason that they had not received parental consent for them to get vaccinated. More worryingly, a good number argued that the vaccines were not safe. They pointed to articles and Memes they had saved on their phones as their evidence, saying that “the internet never lies”.
Our experience showed that the greatest battle against Covid-19 vaccination programmes besides access to the vaccines was now also misinformation on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. A lot of work needs to be done with providing good information to the general populace and also specifically high school students through their medium of taking knowledge and information, social media.
*The observations made around children’s behaviour towards the Covid-19 vaccination are based on the encounters of our staff with the groups they interacted with. These are not necessarily the views of school-going teens across the nation or the views of the Government of Zimbabwe or Goromonzi District Hospital.