Finally, Vapostori descend from the mountaintop

Desire Ncube Religion Reporter
\nApostolic sect members are slowly coming out of their cocoons. In past years, they ran into the mountains, hid under bridges and would have — given the chance — rocketed to the moon or Jupiter, all to “protect” their children from vaccination. However, many of them embraced last week’s mass measles-rubella immunisation programme as health awareness takes root and new belief systems begin to form. Children between six months and five years old got Vitamin A supplements, while the nine-15 age group got measles-rubella vaccine shots. The programme had hit 73 percent national coverage by Wednesday, with — you guessed it right — apostolic sect members among the beneficiaries.

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There were, however, pockets of resistance in Masvingo, Harare and Manicaland.
\nDie-hard “apostles” say only one’s faith sustains life, rendering immunisation and or routine medical check-ups unnecessary.
\nThey also believe vaccines eventually turn people into “moral zombies” — like prostitutes and druggies — without any regard for societal norms and values.

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A Johane Masowe eChishanu Church member who preferred anonymity said “caution” was the buzzword in these trying times.
\n“I don’t trust these vaccinations. The chemicals in the injections are the reason why we now have a weird generation. Children are taking to drugs and prostitution at tender ages and I believe such vaccinations are playing a part in this.

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“The Bible entrusts parents with their children’s care and welfare — 1 Timothy 5:8. Parents, not the State, make healthcare decisions on behalf of their children.”

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But with increased awareness and new regulations in force, more and more members of this religious community are transforming their mindsets.

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Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe president, Reverend Enoch Tsvakai told The Sunday Mail Religion that a new Code of Conduct compels members to observe children’s rights to healthcare and education.

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The union comprises 450 apostolic and zionist churches like Zviratidzo ZveVapostori, Johane Masowe eChishanu and Zvapupu ZvaVapostori, among others.

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Rev Tsvakai said: “All our affiliates are required by the Code of Conduct to take their children to hospital if they fall sick. The vaccination programme is also now a must among our members.

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“If a church fails to abide by these regulations, it loses its membership. Further, we will engage the police. We resorted to these measures after noticing that a number of people from apostolic and zionist churches were dying.”

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He added: “Convincing all apostolic members to get their children immunised is a process, not an event. However, the good thing is the majority is embracing the programme, and we are pleased our efforts are not in vain.

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“Vapostori have improved on vaccination participation. This is because of the Code of Conduct and the information and education that we are giving to them.”

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The Health and Child Care Ministry’s Epidemiology and Disease Control director Dr Portia Manangazira said, “The programme is progressing well. We haven’t encountered major objections from religious groups, save for a few cases. Apostolic churches are complying as they are bringing their children for vaccination.

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“This is very pleasing. I think this is because of positive coverage, medical education and change of attitude towards health issues, among other reasons.”