The Abia State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ASPHDA) has inaugurated a committee for a Crisis Communication Centre, to drive the campaign for COVID-19 vaccination in the state.
The Executive Secretary of the agency, Chinagozi Adindu, charged the committee members to take the assignment seriously.
Mr Adindu, a medical doctor, said the committee was constituted in line with a directive from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA).
He said the centre was initiated to achieve attitudinal reorientation among the citizenry, and to change their negative impression about the vaccination.
He said: “COVID-19 vaccination had suffered a lot of setbacks because of negative media reports.
“It is hoped that the initiative will help to ensure effective implementation of the vaccination.”
According to Mr Adindu, the initiative would serve as a vehicle to ensure that Abia is protected from the pandemic.
He said the committee would also be inaugurated at the grassroots level.
The duties of the committee, he said, would include assisting in collecting reports and documenting all necessary information, misinformation and rumours about the vaccines.
He said the committee’s terms of reference included to promote behavioural change, debunk misinformation and rumours and stimulate the people’s confidence in the vaccines.
In an introductory remark, Meg Onwu, the director, Health Education/Head of Department, Advocacy Communication and Social Mobilisation, said the centre would help to track information, misinformation and rumours surrounding the vaccines.
Mrs Onwu said the data collected would be synthesised and uploaded to the NPHDA.
She said the NPHDA management would utilise the data to plan and design messages and publicity to debunk the negative rumours.
Contributing, the Director, National Orientation Agency in Abia, Ngozi Okechukwu, admonished the committee members and health workers handling the vaccination, to show personal commitment to the programme to ensure its success.
Mrs Okechukwu, who is a member of the committee, expressed concerns over the low level of awareness about the vaccination, especially among rural communities in the state.
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She said: “The duty of creating the necessary awareness and persuading the people, especially the rural dwellers, to take the vaccine, goes beyond setting up the committee.
“The task before the committee is enormous, so there must be a high level of personal commitment for the campaign to achieve the set objective.”
A representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Abia, Mgbeahuru Okechukwu, said the committee came up late, hence, must redouble its efforts, if it hoped to change the narrative in the state.
Mr Okechukwu, who is the state secretary of CAN, blamed the low percentage of vaccinated people in the state on poor awareness creation and apathy amongst the citizenry, due to the rumours around the vaccines.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the committee comprised representatives of NOA, civil society organisations, religious bodies and the media, represented by NAN, amongst others.