Experts appraise media roles in tackling vaccine hesitancy

Experts appraise media roles in tackling vaccine hesitancy

Towards addressing the challenge of vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians and Africans by extension, health journalists and other experts on Thursday reviewed possible media intervention, noting that the safety of human race must be accorded priority.

The experts spoke at the opening ceremony of a two-day annual conference organised by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ)<, with the theme; “Improving Confidence in COVID-19

Speaking at the event, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Mulombo, said media and journalists are the bridge between scientists and the public.

Represented by the head of the global body’s communications unit, Charity Warigon, Mr Mulombo said the COVID-19 pandemic, unlike any pandemic in history, has affected everyone and every country in a manner unexpected.

Mr Mulombo noted that in the earlier phases of the pandemic, there was absence of sufficient knowledge to inform development of vaccines as the sciences were limited.

He said these limitations were exploited by mischief makers, leading to infodemics.

Mr Mulombo, however, said journalists can correct all misinformation built about COVID-19 and its vaccines.

WHO representative, Ms Charity Warigon, chairman of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), Hassan Zaggi and others at its Two-day annual conference in Nassarawa state

Vaccine hesitancy

Mr Mulombo said journalists have proven to be highly professional by rising to the test of the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy by educating, mobilising, and creating awareness amongst the populace.

“If we are to build and or maintain trust, this noble group and profession is one out of a few that have historically been proven to be trusted to provide information that shape the behavior and lives of generations of people the world over.

“It behoves on every member of the fourth estate of the realm, as social responsibility, ensure the provision of accurate, timely, credible, understandable, relevant, and actionable information through various communication channels,” he said.

He said the theme of the conference is timely and apt, as it not only speaks to the present, but also to the future of making Nigerians healthier.

The conference

In his remark, chairman of ANHEJ, Hassan Zaggi said the experience battling the pandemic in the past one year prompted the theme of the conference.

Mr Zaggi said despite the availability of various vaccines to reduce the impact of the pandemic, vaccine hesitancy is a major challenge to achieving the goal.

The chairman, who commended the for the efforts towards achieving herd immunity against the pandemic, noted that some factors are working against these efforts.

“One of the most important activities we have witnessed is the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination drive by countries to ensure everyone is protected from the virus,” he said, adding that; “You will agree with me that issues surrounding the uptake of COVID-19 vaccine have been a source of concern due to vaccine hesitancy arising from several factors.”

Mr Zaggi said some of these factors include conspiracy theories on the safety of the vaccines, fear of the unknown, false and misinformation on social media, amongst others.

TEXEM

He said these factors have led to foot-dragging by most Nigerians to uptake the vaccine despite all the efforts made to import them.

“As journalists covering the health sector, we are deeply worried by the way most Nigerians are not willing to take the vaccine even though the country has been applauded globally for its effort in COVID-19 vaccine roll out,” he said.

He explained that the lack of interest by many Nigerians to receive the vaccine cuts across both the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor in different parts of the country.

“In the next two days, we will channel our energy towards finding workable strategies on how health journalists can convince Nigerians to take the COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

Vaccination so far

At a recent briefing, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said 5,891,305 eligible persons have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 5.3 per cent of the eligible population.

He said 3,252,067 have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated, representing only 2.9 per cent of the overall population of eligible persons.”

He explained that the overall population of eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination to enable the country to reach herd immunity against the disease is 111,776,503.

Since Nigeria’s index case was reported in February 2020, the country has so far recorded 213,818 COVID-19 cases and almost 3,000 deaths.

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