Omar: Covid-19 Vaccine -Educate Public before rollout
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that Kenya has received the first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday (3rd March 2021), with administration expected to start immediately. The program will be rolled out in three phases, with the priorities given to the front-line health workers, teachers, and security personnel. Phase two will be targeting Kenyans with underlying health conditions who are vulnerable to the disease.
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As this exercise kicks off, a public awareness campaign will be essential in achieving comprehensive national coverage. This exercise’s objective should be to convince the hesitant population to get the vaccines to contain the spread of the disease.
However, based on previous experiences, this may be an uphill challenge. In the past, a section of religious groups openly opposed vaccination programmes. They claimed that the vaccination had been a targeted mass sterilization programme, but the government has vehemently denied these claims. These groups may resist the jab and are also likely to spread negative information about its safety, including misinformation that the vaccines can cause infertility.
This anti-vaccine group has two categories. Category one, because of their cultural beliefs, does not believe in vaccines and prefers traditional medicines to modern drugs.
Covid-19 vaccine safety
The second category does not have sufficient information about the vaccine’s efficiency and side effects and is therefore concerned about the jab’s safety. Alongside this, anti-vaccine misinformation online is driving them to turn their back on the shot.
Mistrust in the healthcare system and misinformation about the jab is worrying since many of the population will be hesitant to get the shot.
Public education needed to reverse the trend
Public education campaigns meant to debunk this misinformation through the mainstream and social media platforms are essential. This strategy calls for effective communication of the vaccine’s safety packed with sufficient data from the countries that have already immunized millions of people to boost the efforts to contain the spreading of the disease.
Positive feedback from people who have received the vaccination for Covid-19 increased the vaccine enthusiasm among the population.
Data from the millions of people worldwide who have completed the full two-dose with rare side effects can be sufficient to restore public confidence and strengthen the battle against this dreadful virus.
The regulatory authorities, the medical community, religious leaders, and the media should all take a leading role in launching a successful national campaign to counter the anti-vaccine claims through factual and research-based information. They should be on the frontline in the war against this deadly virus.
Adan Omar is a Nairobi-based Business Consultant