Says goal may not be achieved if…
Calls for urgent public enlightenment
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Yiaga Africa, Wednesday, raised concern over misinformation on COVID-19 vaccination following rumours across various divides in the country about the exercise.
Yiaga Africa in a statement pointed that a steep misinformation curve is also likely to affect community trust and vaccination confidence, which it said despite Nigeria Center for Disease Control’s communication strategy to fight infodemic in a pandemic, misinformation about the vaccine currently is fast spreading, which is traceable to some political, religious and opinion leaders being in the lead of creating disaffection and rejection of the vaccine, which Yiaga Africa described as ‘messages on woes’ that is negating purpose of and need for the COVID-19 vaccination.
While expressing fear of failure of the vaccination exercise that is yet to trickle down to the grassroots, it said the misinformation has assumed a religious dimension, where some religious leaders in their messages openly make statements against the vaccine and vaccination exercise by discouraging their congregations from accepting it.
The statement reads in part, “The federal government, through its agencies, must embark on public enlightenment providing adequate information on the vaccine and the importance of curbing the spread of COVID-19.
“The public enlightenment should also include readily available information on the process of vaccination, the phases of distribution, and the vaccination benefits in preventing COVD-19.
“The government will need different levels of inter-agency collaboration and stakeholder partnership to provide counter-narratives to the conspiracy theories on the vaccines. This will include harping on the safety of the vaccines.
“The poor planning on the part of the government is further causing a significant decline in people’s confidence in health systems in Nigeria.
“Yiaga Africa however recommended that, if the government in Nigeria and other African governments will succeed in vaccinating their populations against COVID-19, they must build people’s confidence in the government.
“This is particularly so in Africa with very fragile health systems and infrastructure. With many governments now unable to ensure patient safety, fear of contracting COVID-19 reduces the number of people accessing local facilities resulting in an unprecedented crisis of confidence in the health system.
“The commencement of COVID-19 vaccination requires a clear strategy for distribution to guide and ensure uniformity of practice for the nationwide distribution of the vaccines.
“The need for equitable access to the vaccine presupposes due process in ensuring responsiveness to the need, balance, and conscientiousness in determining access to the vaccines.
“While it is becoming a practice in other countries, there has been a consensus on the need to begin the vaccination in Nigeria with those in the frontline in the battle against COVID-19, especially the health workers and essential workers, deciding who should come next has spurred considerable debate.”
The statement added that “As vaccines are rolled out across Nigeria, it is also vital to strengthen policy and legal frameworks for vaccine management. The limitations of the Quarantine Act 1926 Cap.Q2 LFN 2004 and the National Health Act (2014) provide an opportunity for the National Assembly to provide a robust framework for managing public health crises in Nigeria. Such a robust legal framework must incorporate democratic principles to protect rights and ensure due process within existing institutions.
“This is also a good time to revisit the process of passing the Control of Infectious Diseases bill into Law.
“It is also important to ensure that legislative reform concerning vaccine management is gender-sensitive and addresses social inclusion issues.”