Stakeholders in Kogi state have been tasked to embark on intentional public sensitization of residents in the state to address misconception and myths about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
This was part of the resolutions reached at a one-day media influencers/stakeholders meeting on Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in Kogi State in Lokoja, on Friday.
Taking the ‘Equitable Recovery Campaign’ closer to the people, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), in collaboration with Yemi Balogun, a social media influencer, mobilized important stakeholders and other influential influencers such as the media, civil society organizations, community leaders, the market women, youth groups, religious leaders as well as stakeholders from the line ministries, departments and agencies within Kogi state to strategize and brainstorm on the best possible ways to carry out the task of reaching the unreached and enriching the reached with adequate, timely and right information on COVID-19 vaccination.
In her welcome address, Balogun described the emergence of the vaccine to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as a “very good development”.
She noted with dismay the misconception and misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and called for concerted and aggressive sensitization of the populace to address the myth and other challenges confronting the exercise.
“There is no doubt that an equitable access to the ongoing free vaccination will not just increase the safety of citizens but also lead to equitable recovery across the world.
“This intervention is timely as it will reach out to important stakeholders, citizens and media to promote the need to get vaccinated and emphasise the safety and efficacy of the vaccine,” she said.
Balogun added that the equitable recovery campaign will deploy various channels of communication to sensitize Kogi citizens on the need to get vaccinated.
In his keynote address, the State Director of Public Health, Dr. Francis Akpa noted that the safety and efficacy of the vaccines was not in doubt given their contribution to stemming the tide.
“Safe and effective vaccines are making a significant contribution to preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19. As vaccines are rolling out and immunity is building, it is important to continue to follow all of the recommended measures that reduce the spread of the virus,” he said.
Akpa explained that the role of the vaccine was to protect a person from getting infected by the virus, and not to stop exposure, noting that the vaccine was internal while exposure was external.
He informed the meeting that there is a logistician resident in Kogi state from UNICEF who takes stock of every vaccine that come into the state, adding that all vaccines that come into the state are utilized within good times before expiration.
He added that all LGAs in the state have storage capacities to store the vaccine at -196 degrees for 7 days after which if not utilized within the 7 days are returned to the state preservation.
He urged the media to rise up to the challenge of distrust by dis-abusing the minds of many Nigerians who continue to reject the COVID-19 vaccine out of ignorance or based on unconfirmed stories and information they get from social media, friends and family members.
Stakeholders at the meeting however observed that citizens developed apathy towards the vaccination in the state as a result of the myth and misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
It was also observed that leaders of the two major religion have taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
They maintained that the level of awareness amongst rural dwellers was abysmally very poor, and called improved sensitization mechanisms to ensure sufficient knowledge among the populace.
Participants also called for political, religious and community leaders to present themselves for the exercise to discourage the anti-vaccine stance of the people and shape confidence in them about the safety of the vaccines, for the emergence of more resilient societies after the crisis
The stakeholders noted that trust in the vaccines is vital, and is critically dependant on the ability of governments to communicate the benefits of vaccination, and to deliver the vaccines safely and effectively.
They recommended increase in the capacity and effectiveness of regulatory agencies in handling issues and communicating consistently as events arise, while retaining public confidence in their review processes.
It also attributed the lack of acceptance of vaccination to previous failures of health systems and public institutions to serve certain population groups effectively and engender their trust.
The stakeholders gave their commitments towards taking the campaign to the doorsteps of Kogi residents.
CITAD, is a non-profit organization committed to the use of information and communication technologies for development and promotion of good governance.