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Educate people on vaccine efficacy



Lesotho is expected to start rolling out a massive Covid-19 vaccination programme later this month. The vaccines have been acquired as part of the Covax Facility Advanced Market Commitment, a global initiative to distribute vaccines to poor countries around the world. While the distribution of the vaccines will present a logistical nightmare, that will not be insurmountable given our experience over the past two decades in handling the HIV pandemic. We have been through this course before and we have no doubt that the Ministry of Health will once again rise to the occasion. We are deeply concerned however at what we see as the absence of aggressive campaigns by the Ministry of Health to educate the public on the use and safety of vaccines. In the absence of credible information, we have left our own people susceptible to outright falsehoods, innuendoes and half-truths regarding Covid-19 vaccines. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a relentless assault on science by people on the fringes of society. That, sadly, has also come from powerful politicians. They have spread outright falsehoods about the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines. The message these vaccine sceptics have pushed is that this is a programme being advanced by the West to wipe out the black community. They have even charged that these vaccines will cause infertility, a big issue on a continent that sees childlessness as a curse. Unfortunately, even charismatic religious leaders have been caught up in the melee of falsehoods. They have charged, with no shred of evidence, that this is a grand plan by powerful politicians to infuse the so-called “Mark of the Beast” as described in the Book of Revelation. Much time was lost here at home when our own people spent countless hours arguing if Covid-19 indeed “existed”. It was a helpless debate that proved to be counter-productive. Instead of preparing for the coming storm, we spent the first few months of the pandemic pretending we would be spared from the disease because of our genetic make-up as Basotho. While the sceptics were spreading doubts, the government did very little to counter the massive disinformation campaigns. We ultimately paid a heavy price for our inaction. Today, vaccine sceptics have succeeded in planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the people. Some now even believe that these vaccines are not safe. The sad result of all this is a negative vibe surrounding the vaccination programme. While all this negativity was being spread around, the government kept quiet, leaving Basotho at the mercy of religious quacks. It is absolutely important that the government of Lesotho, through its Ministry of Health, fights aggressively to correct this dangerous thinking. The truth is no Mosotho will be safe until everyone who must be vaccinated gets that shot in the arm. Unless that is done, we shall remain at the mercy of this virus. The government must quickly go on a charm offensive to convince people that vaccines are safe. We have seen how political leaders elsewhere have been at the forefront trying to convince their people to take the vaccine. That is critical because some people have genuine concerns about the safety of vaccines. Their fears stem from legitimate concerns due to decades of malpractice by medical practitioners mostly in the West who used blacks for experimental medical programmes. Those fears are real and must be addressed comprehensively. Such fears and misconceptions must be corrected.  

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