By Festus Fifen.
As the Nigeria Government grapples with the challenges of vaccine hesitation and acceptance amongst its Citizenry, Stakeholders in the Health Sector on Thursday converged on Nasarawa State North Central Nigeria for a Two-Day Annual Conference organized by The Association of Nigeria Health Journalists(ANHEJ) to chart a way forward in the areas of vaccine acceptance and other challenges bedeviling the nation’s Health Sector.
The Two-Day Conference with the theme ” Improving Confidence in Covid-19 Vaccine in Nigeria Beyond 2021: The role of the Media” is aimed at using the media to disseminate the right information about the covid-19 vaccine and also correct misinformation that will bring about behavioral change amongst the people.
Speaking at the opening Ceremony, The Nigeria Country Representative of the World Health Organisation Walter Mulombo commended the efforts of health reporters for the noble role they played through the different phases and faces of the deadly disease which took the world by storm and how they have been able to bridge the information gap between scientist and the public.
Represented by the Head of the Communications Unit, Ms Charity Warigon, Walter Mulombo said the conference is not only timely but apt as the world charts a way forward to contain the effect of the deadly virus.
In his words, ” It behooves every member of the Fourth Realm of the Estate to, as social responsibility, ensure the provision of accurate, timely, credible, understandable, relevant, and actionable information through various communication channels.”
” We can only improve on what we have achieved so far and even do better, as there is so much to attain in driving confidence in the vaccination effort by building trust and continuously being a trusted and reliable source.”
• Our messaging must continue to remind the public that, for the foreseeable future, we must continue to wear masks, physically distance, and avoid crowds. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean that we can throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk: relaxing public health and social measures interventions should be done cautiously and with careful attention paid to those who remain unvaccinated.”
In his goodwill message, the Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists FCT Council Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche who called on the Nigeria Government and other development partners to do more to better the working conditions of journalists across the country stated that so far the Abuja council of the Union has been able to mobilize about 650 Journalists and their Families for vaccination, considering the frontline role they play in the fight against the deadly virus.
He thanked the Leadership of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists for the initiative to gather experts to chart a way forward in such a critical time in the history of the Nigeria state.
In his Opening Speech, President of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) Mr. Hassan Zaggi said, issues surrounding the uptake of COVID-19 vaccine nationwide have been source of concern to the association over time due to vaccine hesitancy arising from several factors.
According to Mr. Zaggi, ” Some of these factors include conspiracy theories on the safety of the vaccines, fear of the unknown, false and misinformation on social media platforms amongst others.”
“This, has, however, led to foot-dragging by most Nigerians to uptake the vaccine despite all sincere efforts by the government.”
” We are also concerned that if urgent actions are not taken, the federal government’s target to vaccinate 55 million residents of Nigeria by the end of January, 2022, which is 50% of the target population, may not be visible.”
” We must raise and educate our people in all nooks and crannies to ensure they go to the centers nearest to them and take the COVID-19 vaccine,” he concluded.
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