By Moses Charedzera
Religious leaders have rallied behind the vaccination campaign targetting to achieve herd immunity in Zvishavane and surrounding areas.
Speaking during a YAFM and Great Dyke TV webinar running under the theme Zvishavane –towards herd immunity, Reverend Robson Gama, a minister in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Zvishavane congregation, which is a member of the ZCC ecumenical local fellowship, declared that vaccination is an act of love.
He said the church is playing a major role in pushing up the issue of vaccination and dispelling myths that vaccines are satanic.
“The church is helping people understand that vaccineshave been there for a long time such as BCG, polio, measles and so on. So we use the doctrine of love. Vaccination is an act of love. If you love your neighbor you protect them through vaccination as much as through the word of God,” he said.
He said the churches under the ZCC banner have a history of intervention to solve national crises and will not just look on without complementing government in solving the covid-19 pandemic.
“It is our culture as the Zimbabwe Council of Churches(ZCC) that when there is a crisis we just don’t just look on and leave the crisis to the government and powers that be but we complement government efforts in responding to the crisis, be it a social crisis and in this case a health crisis.
Faced with a health problem that requires scientific knowledge, Reverend Gama stressed the need to gather validated information for use by the congregation.
“As church leaders we need to know, so when we have knowledge it is easier to encourage people to get vaccinated. So as followers of Christ we want to see people live life in its totality or abundance. So when there is a crisis like this we .don’t actually wait we try our level best to intervene.
“We are therefore encouraging people in the church and people in the country to get vaccinated but what we cannot do is to force people because this is a personal decision,” he said.
Another religious leader ,Mr Prosper Nyabani, the Public Health Manager with the Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust said they have been able to successfully dispel myths such as that vaccination is ungodly and not in line with religious doctrines using a combination of social media and influential leaders.
“We utilise our social media platforms, such as twitter,facebook, whatsapp and so on and even the influencers. We utilise religious leaders to make sure that we harness their influence around their congregants.
“They spread the message – once a pastor or bishop says that it is good to get vaccinated, the congregants can easily relate to that and in a way we create what is known as behaviour intention to get the vaccination.
“So basically this is the way that we have been doing and we have also been trying to make sure that our contribution towards herd immunity as a nation becomes very significant,” he said.
While he could not provide the rate of conversion Nyabani said that they have reached out to more than 1.5 million congregants.
“We work with what is known as the direct contact and in terms of our direct contact so far we are just above one and a half million people,” he said.
Zimbabwe is currently battling a third wave of covid-19 infections which has seen the government imposing a level four lockdown for two weeks.
Zvishavane has been, among other areas, been declared a covid-19 hotspot. During the webinar Zvishavane District Health promotion officer Dean Durrel Chezarevealed that the district has recorded 525 cases and 11 deaths due to covid-19.
As of Friday the 2nd of July Zvishavane had administered 25 623 jabs for both first and second doses while 11 625 have been fully vaccinated. Gweru leads the figures in the Midlands with 25 652 jabs for both first and second doses with 11880 fully vaccinated people.