The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) urged the government to prioritize journalists in its COVID-19 Vaccination Roll-out Plan on Wednesday, saying that they were also part of frontline workers fighting to end the pandemic.
The country received its first batch of 200,000 vaccines from China on Monday and the government has already put in place a first phase roll-out program identifying groups to be inoculated first, among them health workers. Inoculation using the Sinopharm vaccine is due to begin Thursday, according to the government. “As the first batch of vaccination dosages of COVID-19 arrives in the country, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists calls upon the government to include journalists in its priority inoculation roll-out list,” ZUJ president Michael Chideme said. “In this unprecedented crisis, the media is now more than ever an essential and emergency service critical in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They offer an unparalleled service in providing the citizenry with verified and fact-checked information on all aspects of COVID-19,” he said.
Chideme said the public depended on journalists to inform and educate them on the fluid environment presented by the pandemic. “The act of informing the public on the threat of the coronavirus carries with it huge risks for the journalists, chief among them the risk of contagion. The union, as other sectors, has since lost members due to this virus. “Therefore, techniques and mechanisms to ensure journalists conduct safe communication with sources and members of the public should be emphasized and adopted,” he added.
At least three journalists have succumbed to COVID-19 since December 2020, with several others having overcome it. As of Feb. 16, Zimbabwe had recorded 1,414 deaths from 35,315 infections.