Myths and misconceptions on covid-19: Mberengwa villagers speaks out

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Perseverance Javangwe

In some villages of Murerezi in Mberengwa, the Southern part of Zimbabwe others say covid-19 is a bomb that was created to destroy China and America but later on turned into a virus that affected the whole world, while for some, the covid-19 vaccines were made to destroy the elderly people thereby leaving the younger and new generations.

Covid-19 misinformation continuously spread online and in communities. In a crisis people get scared, and they seek out information to stay safe. At the same time, a lot of rumors and half-truths get spread out. That is why we see false messages and videos circulating on social media, unfounded theories about how the virus is transmitted, and the myths surrounding covid-19.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (covid-19) in December 2019 in China, there has been an outburst of information across various media platforms in the country and globally as well. These have also spread to the rural communities of Zimbabwe and have led to many people not accepting the covid-19 vaccines that have been administered to curb the virus.

Speaking during a community dialogue meeting that was held by the Community Voices Zimbabwe in Mberengwa recently, villagers spoke on the myths and misconceptions of the covid-19 virus as well as the vaccines.

“…we heard all sorts of things about covid-19, some were saying it is a bomb that was created to destroy China and America then it changed and became a virus, so we were afraid of it,” said Ncube.

“When covid-19 was announced, we did not believe it. We thought it was a joke. We thought that it was a means for President Mnangagwa, and his Government to get some funds for our community. We did not believe we only started believing when one of our village colleague’s child passed on due to covid-19 and was brought here for burial. On the burial day, we were chased away from the grave and instructed to go far to avoid catching the virus. That is when we started believing that for sure covid-19 is here, and killing people,” said Headman Shava.

The youths who drink beer in the villages of Mberengwa were of the belief that as long as one is drunk he would not catch the virus, therefore the youths made sure that they were always drunk.

“As for us who drink beer a lot, getting vaccinated is a waste of time we believed that if we drink a lot and get drunk we would be ok because when we are drunk our blood will also be drunk that covid-19 won’t affect us and as long as there is beer in our bloodstream we would not be affected by covid-19, so we were supposed to stay drunk we would make sure that we stay at the bars until we get something to drink while playing hide and seek with the police

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccines and their development. This has led to many villagers being afraid to accept the vaccines fearing for their lives.

“When the vaccines came some were saying that we should not consent to it sighting that there was a woman who gave birth to a premature and blood samples were taken from that premature to make vaccines so the vaccines are filled with the covid-19 virus, and if we agree to it we would also fall victim to covid-19 and probably die,” said Mai Mune.

“We heard that the vaccines start killing the elderly first, so we delayed going for vaccines because we were afraid. We only agreed after we heard that President Mnangagwa (Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa) had received the jab, and nothing bad happened to him after 7 days. So it was really a challenge for us as the elderly, it was a war for us,” said Mbuya Manunge.

“Some people were saying that President Mnangagwa was vaccinated, while some were saying he was not vaccinated but used water as a vaccine just to disguise the population in a way of encouraging us to take the vaccines. So it took longer for people to accept the vaccines because of the rumors that were being spread around,” said a mother who could not be identified.

The misinformation about the covid-19 vaccines and their development process induced high levels of vaccine hesitancy among the public, preventing vaccination rates sufficient for achieving herd immunity. Villagers had refused the vaccines due to the spread of misinformation, however, a form of positive coercion was used to encourage the villagers to get the vaccines.

“I only accepted the vaccines after we were informed that there were maize seedlings for everyone but were being handed to those who have been vaccinated only. That is when I decided to go for a vaccination. So I went to Muponjane, but the pressure was too much there, and I had to go to the camp that is when I saw the police officers getting vaccinated. I wondered if the government would kill the police through the vaccines, and asked myself who would enforce the law thereafter, so that is when I agreed to take the first jab,” said Masiziba.

“When the vaccination came I was afraid because of the rumors that circulated, and the instruction was that as village heads we should get vaccinated first before everyone else. Furthermore, I was the acting head of the village, and I asked myself if I was going to die in a position that is temporarily mine. I came back to my village and informed everyone about vaccination, some were afraid to die because of the rumors they heard. So I advised them that the initiative was being spearheaded by the government, and that government would not want to kill everyone. If they do, then what would happen to the country, but the truth is I was afraid to go alone so I advised my people to select a day they felt comfortable so that we would go together, and they did. We then went for the vaccination program early in the morning, the majority went on that day, but we went far at Muponjane which is 20km away,” said acting village Head Mai Mauso.

Former Zimbabwe Minister of Health Dr. Henry Madzorera said that there is a need for more education, and information dissemination from the Ministry of Health so that everyone is well informed. He also said that there was nothing wrong with all the doses of the covid-19 vaccines that are being administered in the country despite the misinformation from some sects of the media.

“We encourage everyone to go and get vaccinated, unless if one has a condition that he doubts then there is a need to consult with doctors, but there is nothing wrong with the vaccines. Let us all go, and get vaccinated. There is, however, a need for more education and proper information about the covid-19 virus and the vaccines from the health ministry so that people become confident in accepting the vaccines,” he advised.

There is a need to combat misinformation, which is regarded as the incorrect and/or erroneous information conveyed regardless of intent to deceive and is a critical challenge of our day. But there is a need for more effort since the proliferation of disinformation, enabled by many platforms, has the potential to have serious negative repercussions, as individuals become not only uninformed but also less able to believe in scientific truths and trust experts


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