STRONG anti-vaccine sentiments are making waves in Namibia at a time when the newly developed coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out worldwide and is expected to reach Namibian shores either at the end of this month or early February.
Anti-vaccine sentiments are, however, not a new phenomenon.
They spring to life whenever there is a vaccination campaign and when a new vaccine is developed – a trend since the first vaccine was invented by Edward Jenner more than 200 years ago.
While Namibians are demonstrating an increased awareness about the deadly coronavirus, the newly developed vaccine has become a divisive topic.
The vaccine is opposed by a significant number of people who are actively campaigning against its introduction in Namibia, a behaviour reminiscent of the burning down of cattle vaccination pens in Northern Namibia during the early 1970s when anti-regime activists alleged that cattle vaccination was a means “to wipe out” indigenous people’s livestock.
Vaccine objectors typically downplay the disease or deny its existence, while exaggerating purported dangers posed by the vaccine.
As it was in the early 1970s, it is now. The arguments have simply slightly been modified.
It is now claimed that the vaccine – just like the coronavirus – is a means to ‘depopulate” the world, Africa in particular.
It is falsely claimed that instead of immunising against the deadly virus, the vaccine will infect people with the virus.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified vaccine opposition (anti-vax) as one of the “top ten global health threats”.
The anti-vaxxers have a seemingly endless list of questions, but are never satisfied with the answers.
Some go as far as quoting the Bible in support of their thesis, while others allege that the vaccine’s efficacy cannot be proven scientifically.
A closer look reveals that the anti-vaxxers are actually motivated by ideology and or religion.
A quick random sampling revealed that the anti-vaxxers are mostly, but not exclusively, people who have extreme mistrust of government and mostly belong to independent non-denominational Christian churches.
A self-proclaimed prophetess, who has parishes in Oshana and Ohangwena, recently informed her followers that they would be immunized against the deadly coronavirus by merely touching her robe.
And when the government decides to force all citizens to be vaccinated against their will, the “destructive vaccine” would not harm her followers provided they touched her robe, of course.
Many citizens are concerned about the ongoing anti-vaccine misinformation and are urging authorities to counter attack.
“The government and other stakeholders need to improve their communication to counter the massive anti-vaccine misinformation or else vaccine hesitancy becomes the norm in Namibia,” said Oshakati resident Hilaria Kambode, a retired nurse.
She added: “The people who initially claimed that the coronavirus was a hoax or that it was caused by 5G technology, are the same people who now falsely claim that the vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Unfortunately, many people believe them, and that alone is reason to worry.”
Despite objections that lean on all kinds of conspiracy theories, vaccine/immunisation efficacy is, however, a historically proven fact.
When the Smallpox vaccine was developed in the late 1790s it faced objections, but a sustained WHO-sponsored worldwide vaccination campaign eventually eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth. That is said to be the only human disease that was ever totally eradicated.
The introduction of the polio vaccine in the 1930s also faced strong opposition, but eventually, the vaccine succeeded in eliminating polio from most of the world.
In fact, scheduled vaccination or immunisation – mostly for children – is now accepted as a norm in Namibia where children are immunised at fixed intervals against measles, rubella, Hepatitis B and a host of other diseases.