By Katurak Yashim
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), says “conspiracy theories” about COVID-19 vaccines by the public is downing efforts by the Federal Government to manage spread of the virus.
Dr Olufemi Adeyemi, UNICEF Health Specialist said this at a two-day media dialogue on “Demand Creation for COVID-19 Vaccines”.
The event was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB), Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF on Wednesday in Enugu.
Adeyemi, also the officer in charge of the UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, said that these theories which remained unfounded made people hesitant and negatively impacted their willingness to receive the vaccine.
He reiterated that COVID-19 was a major threat to life and existence in Nigeria and around the world and urged the media to actively engage the public by disseminating correct and timely messages about the pandemic.
Adeyemi called on the public not to allow themselves to be misinformed about COVID-19 and the vaccines, adding that the vaccines were safe and the most effective way to manage the spread of the virus.
“Considerable progress is being made by the Federal Government, UNICEF, and other development agencies to ensure the spread of COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control through the importation of vaccines and accessibility to vaccines.
“We, however, face serious challenges in the areas of public hesitancy, unwillingness, and conspiracies against the COVID-19 vaccines, making efforts of government, partners, and donors unreciprocated.
“Early in 2020, Nigeria recorded its index cases of the COVID-19 virus like the experience by other parts of the world which is being ravaged and depleting the world’s major population by the hour and day.
“UNICEF and partners recognise the active role the media has continued to play right from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring correct and timely messages are disseminated to the public.’’
Adeyemi said that media sensitisation and education had enabled the rapid and widespread reach of public health information.
Dr Obasi Chikezie, Community Medicine Department, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUT), said that complacency, lack of confidence, and convenience were some of the reasons many persons remained hesitant to get vaccinated.
Chikezie said this while delivering a lecture titled “Debunking Rumors and Conspiracy Theories against COVID-19 Vaccines/Vaccination”.
He said that Nigeria was in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with about 200,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths, making it imperative for the Federal Government to sustain investment in COVID-19.
Chikezie said that investment in COVID-19 also remained important as older persons were at a higher risk of dying when infected by the virus.
“Once you are vaccinated against any disease, it is the most cost-effective way of managing diseases and solves challenges that come with lack of access to health from the individual and public health perspective.
“The treatment of COVID-19 is very expensive, and 95 face masks costs 2,500 which is more expensive than the vaccine and in isolation centres we use more than 200 pieces of these masks.
“You can imagine how expensive this is. If you refuse to take the vaccine, it is just like saying that since a seatbelt does not protect you from an accident let me not use it.
“Taking the vaccine helps to ensure prevention from the virus, achieve herd immunity, reduce the severity of the disease, and achieve faster world containment of the virus,’’ he said.
Chikezie said that the vaccination would also ensure that every country was safe until all countries vaccinated their citizens.
He criticised the myths around COVID-19 vaccines, saying that those peddling conspiracy theories about the vaccines were persons who were not health experts and lacked knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that some of the myths spreading about the COVID-19 vaccines include death after two years and that vaccinated bodies could magnet metal and/or ignite electric bulb.
“Other myths are that the vaccine changes DNA, there are chips in the vaccine, the vaccine causes infertility/depopulation, weakness after vaccination, and convulsion.
“Some of the vaccines are fake Chinese vaccines, Billgate Foundation has withdrawn from distributing vaccines and the vaccines are associated with 666. All these myths were invented by individuals; there is no truth or fact to any of them.
“Anybody that has a smartphone, what you know about the phone is what you have been enabled to know. These phones are monitored but you do not know, your phone can snap your picture without your knowledge.
“So, how will someone produce vaccines just to monitor you meanwhile you willingly bought a phone with your money which is being used to monitor you 24hrs of the day.
“In a few days, the E-naira will be inaugurated. Today the world is trading on e-currency, and you are saying that the COVID-19 vaccines have chips in them.
“How many people have you seen experienced weakness and convulse after being vaccinated? Any vaccine given, the recipient details are recorded so that if there are issues, the source of the vaccine is traced and investigated.’’
He said that the COVID-19 vaccines available in Nigeria were the Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson, stating that only persons who are of 18 years and above could be vaccinated.
According to Chikezie, essential workers, the elderly, and those with co-morbidities can take the vaccines.
He said that pregnant women were, however, exempted from getting vaccinated including those with a severe allergy to any component of COVID-19 vaccines.
Chikezie called on journalists to be the frontline promoters of the safety of the vaccine by getting vaccinated and sharing pictures of the process with the public to encourage more acceptance of the vaccine.
“When you use medical terms in your reports, please explain them for the public to understand and use clear language when communicating.
“Always report accurately, the number of COVID-19 infections, those discharged, and the number of deaths and disclose the adverse events following vaccination to enable health organisations follow-up on the issues,” Chikezie said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two-day media dialogue was organised to call on government at the federal and state levels to provide logistics and operation support for the delivery of the vaccines.
It was also organised to improve public engagement by the media to boost demand generation for the uptake of the vaccines and allay fears by anarchist theorists about the safety of vaccines.
Journalists from media organisations including print, online, radio, and television including NAN from different states of the federation participated in the dialogue. (NAN)