Zambians spread the word: Get COVID-19 vaccine!

Illustration of syringe, vials and mask with Zambian flag on it (© Shutterstock)
The United States is working with health officials in Zambia to encourage Zambians to get vaccinated. (© Shutterstock)

Bishop Cassius Zulu, 53, pastor of the Bible Gospel Church in Africa (Bigoca) in Lusaka, received the COVID-19 vaccine. He emphasizes the importance of public health.

“Faith alone is not enough,” Zulu said. “As a pastor, it is important to be a living example to the community. It is a good combination of practicing the faith and providing hope.”

Even as Zambian Ministry of Health officials work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand COVID-19 vaccination and access to accurate, trustworthy information, Zambians like Bishop Zulu are doing their part too.

Maybin Mumba wearing mask and holding sign in front of CDC poster encouraging COVID-19 vaccination (Rose Tembo/CDC)
The CDC’s Maybin Mumba helps launch the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Zambia’s Eastern province in December. (Rose Tembo/CDC).

National Assembly Speaker Nelly Mutti received a second vaccine dose in September. She urges fellow Zambians to get vaccinated. “I took the vaccine in order to protect myself and other people that I associate with on a daily basis,” she said.

Mutti reported no major side effects. “Vaccinations are not new,” she said. “We have been taking vaccinations from childhood. As the old medical adage goes, ‘Prevention is better than the cure.’”

As of December 13, more than 1.2 million Zambians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Zambian Ministry of Health.

Mutanuka Simbuwa, 56, a community health worker in Lusaka, tells others that the vaccine boosts the immune system and provides protection against the virus.

“After witnessing firsthand many COVID-19 illnesses and deaths in my neighborhood and the community at large, I resolved to protect myself and my family,” he said.

Headshot of Dr. James Simpungwe (Rose Tembo/CDC)
Dr. James Simpungwe of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to expand the COVID-19 vaccination rate in Zambia. (Rose Tembo/CDC)

Dr. James Simpungwe, the CDC Zambia medical officer for Lusaka province, said the CDC and local authorities advise health workers to allow hesitant people to express their concerns about the vaccine but then steer them to accurate, trustworthy information about the virus and vaccines. These include World Health Organization, Zambian Ministry of Health and CDC sites.

Other tips include:

  • Go beyond tweets and headlines and check sources.
  • Be careful of outdated information.
  • Don’t believe everything you hear.

The CDC trained more than 500 health workers in four provinces, according to Simpungwe.

It also helped develop posters and brochures explaining the virus. These especially target people with HIV. Those people may be more likely to become severely ill from COVID-19. More than 30,000 HIV patients received a vaccine.

Barbara Hara Musonda, a 43-year-old mother of four, decided to get vaccinated for very personal reasons after losing family members to COVID-19.

“I got the vaccine for prevention after nursing my late husband in the COVID-19 ward in Chipata Central Hospital,” she said. Musonda encourages others to follow suit.

“The vaccine is very safe,” she said. “I had side effects for three days, but I was at peace because I was educated on the side effects and how to manage them.”

Mthoniswa Banda, a journalist, said several co-workers had COVID-19 and required hospital treatment. They believed they were exposed when one co-worker became ill with the virus after attending a family celebration.

“Vaccination saved me from getting seriously ill with COVID-19,” Banda, 45, said. “I was the only one in the office who was not admitted to the hospital.”