Fear grips Zambia as covid19 fourth wave looms amidst hesitancy in achieving herd immunity.

By Kelvin Mbewe

According to Zambia’s National Expanded Programme on immunization manager Dien Mwansa herd immunity is a complicated subject because of vaccines

Since covid 19 broke out in Zambia, the country has recorded three waves or attacks of the corona virus.

According to scientists the waves are triggered by the changes in the seasons. One of the virus’ characteristics is that it becomes activated during the cold season.

Will the virus be more aggressive as the country nears the rainy season which is expected around end of October to April next year? This is likely to be the fourth wave attack.

Every new wave that the country has recorded has been more fatal than the former wave, a situation that sends fears whenever a new wave looms.

The Ministry of Health says it expects the fourth wave of covid 19 in Zambia to be more hostile than the third wave.

According to the ministry the fourth wave is likely to be triggered by the deficit in reaching herd immunity through vaccinations, multiplication of the virus which is likely to lead to creation of different and stronger covid 19 variants or types.

The fourth wave will occur at a time when Zambia is struggling with achieving herd immunity. The country has only vaccinated just about 5.9 percent of the required 70 percent to attain herd immunity which is a milestone in preventing the spread or elimination of the covid19 virus.

According to Zambia’s National Expanded Programme on immunization manager Dien Mwansa herd immunity in Zambia is a complicated subject because vaccines that have been made available to Zambia are less than what the country needs to attain herd immunity.

As at 18th October 2021, Zambia had only received 1,245,300 doses of vaccines with another projection of 2,474,880 expected in the country before 2022. Even with this projection it is not enough to reach the 8,435,146 target to attain herd immunity.

Dr Mwansa said some people in Zambia have no knowledge about vaccines and this has also contributed to the challenges of attaining herd immunity as they have shunned covid19 vaccinations due to lack of knowledge about the vaccines.

Speaking when he addressed journalists during a Media Science Café (MESICA) workshop under the theme “beating covid19 vaccination hesitancy in Zambia and how the country can achieve herd immunity, lessons from other vaccines,” Dr Mwansa disclosed that the fourth wave is projected to occur around the festive season.

“What are we anticipating in the fourth wave? We fear the worst. We fear the worst in the sense that, there is an old Marxism which says that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck most likely it’s a duck isn’t it”? he said.

He said the ministry of health is able to project covid19 waves because of the patterns recorded in previous waves and the virus’s characteristic of multiplying.

“When we say a wave we don’t necessary mean the wind but rather it’s a combination of two things. Viruses, like all living things, multiply just like humans, we have children and our children will give birth to more children and so on and so forth. The only difference is that a virus can have its generations in one day while humans take years for generations to pass,” he said.

Dr Mwansa said the multiplication of the virus causes the production of stronger variants such as the delta variant.

“If I had covid 19 and was not following the six golden rules of prevention, a good number of people can get infected. As opposed to the virus multiplying within me, it will be multiplying among a lot of people. So it is the accumulation of such transfers of the virus that is described as a wave,” he said.

He said the ministry fears the fourth wave is likely to happen during the time that people celebrate Christmas and new year because most people would have dropped their guard.

Dr Mwansa said just like the third wave, the fourth wave will be characterized with situations where everyone will at least know a person that would have succumbed to covid 19.

And Dziwa Science executive director Veronica Mwaba says Zambia cannot afford a fourth wave of covid 19 because of the restrictions that come with recurrence of the virus.

She said this during a media science engagement in Lusaka recently.

“Scientists are saying that Zambia may experience the fourth wave, is this something that we should look out for? Certainly not. Remember when the borders where closed our health workers were the only ones that we relied on to find solutions to all health problems in the country. It was not easy, they deserve a round of applause for the work that they are doing,” she said.

Ms Mwaba however called on citizens to play their role in covid19 prevention and not sorely rely on medical personnel.

“But then in as much as health professionals are doing to save lives, lets do justice to ourselves by improving on personal hygiene, something that we can do on our own. Let us wash our hands regularly, observe social distancing, mask up, and observe all the six golden rules because we now have vaccinations, so that the attacks are not severe,” She said.

She however expressed sadness at the lack of adherence to the six golden rules of covid prevention.

“There is so much laxity on how best we can protect ourselves,” she said.

And the Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo says the media need to play their role of informing the public on covid 19 preventive strategies to avert the effects of the fourth wave.

She said this through the director of health promotion, environment and social determinants Abel Kabalo.

“In order to increase the number of people getting the vaccine, there is need to create demand through activities such as sensitization and engagement which will equip the media with updated information on the covid19 virus. This will translate into a well-informed general public who will in turn accept the covid 19 vaccination,” he said.

Ms Masebo said the media have the influence in dispelling through myths on covid 19 vaccinations through reporting.

“The new dawn government is committed to fighting the pandemic, this is evident by the appointment of the covid19 advisor to the republican President and also the support that the President has received when he went to lobby for more vaccines so that everyone has access to the vaccines,” she said.

She said that government respects science and has accepted that vaccines are effective in prevention of covid 19.

“We have seen a lot of waves across the world irrespective of whether developed or undeveloped countries. I was listening to the news today and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that the United Kingdom has recorded an increase in cases of covid 19 and are experiencing another wave of the pandemic,” he said.

The fourth wave of the corona virus is expected in Zambia and the only way to minimize its effects is through vaccination and the observation of the six golden rules.

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