A two-day national media dialogue on COVID- 19, has ended in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria, with the need stressed for intensified efforts at debunking rumours and conspiracy theories against COVID-19 vaccines/vaccination.
The dialogue was organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information.
Uptake of COVID vaccines has been a major issue militating against the fight against coronavirus in Nigeria, a development fueled by stereotypes and wrong notions against the vaccines.
The dialogue, therefore, became imperative to clear any confusion relating to the vaccine rollout and build trust amongst the public, ensuring that they have access to information they require.
According to the organizers, the role of journalists and independent media is key in providing accurate and evidence-based coverage of the aspects of the vaccine rollout. The UNICEF Enugu Field officer Dr Ibrahim Kahlil Conteh, represented by Health Specialist and Officer in Charge of UNICEF, Dr Olufemi Adeyemi said the programme was to underscore the active role the media has continued to play right from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring correct and timely messages about the pandemic is disseminated.
According to him, considerable progress is being made by the Federal government, UNICEF and other development agencies, to ensure the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control through the importation of vaccines and their accessibility.
“Vaccines constitute a viable way of reducing the burden of COVID-19 globally. The efforts of global development partners in ensuring access to these vaccines in Nigeria is quite commendable and the people must reciprocate the gesture by ensuring they get vaccinated,” he said.
The UNICEF field officer and Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, in his speech regretted that young learners across the globe are being cut off from their education and other vital benefits from schools, owing to the prevalence of COVID.
He noted that the lockdown and other restrictions to check COVID spread have had so much negative impact on not only education but also on other key sectors, hence the need for the people to take action.
The Enugu State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ikechukwu Obi represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr Ifeanyi Agujiobi spoke against the too many myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories about the virus among the people, and urged people to shun the misleading information and avail themselves of the vaccination to check the spread.
In a presentation, Dr Obasi Chikezie of the community medicine department Enugu State University of science and technology ESUTH, identified some myths and misconceptions driving the poor uptake of the COVID vaccines.
“Some of these misconceptions include that the vaccines cause death after 2 years, magnets metal, causes convulsion, ignites electric bulb and that it changes DNA. ”Some have also said that there are chips in vaccines and that it is planned to be a tool for depopulating the countries. These are lies and our people should disregard them,” he said.
Chikezie noted that given the very high cost of treating the virus, the most cost-effective way of eliminating the disease is vaccination, admonishing the people to shun some of the deceitful and false theories being propagated through social media against the vaccine.
The media he said, should also use clear language to explain the stage, report the numbers and disclose the adverse events following vaccination, use appropriate imagery to spread the message for effective uptake of the vaccines.
Dr Mrs Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe, was among the UNICEF team whose presence graced the dialogue.