COVID-19 Vaccines: UNICEF, CRIB storm Kano for advocacy, record instant breakthroughs
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with the Child’s Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture on Thursday commenced a 2-day advocacy retreat for media practitioners across the country.
The event scheduled to end on Friday had in attendance media personnel from mainstream media in the country both print-media, broadcasting (Television and Radio stations) and credible online media outlets.
In introduction and setting out objectives of the retreat, the UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku explained that the retreat is literally to engage and partner journalists for effective fieldwork vis-a-vis educating and enlightening the public of the importance and necessity of accepting the vaccines which though are administered free to citizens but, costs governments huge sums in foreign currency on account of the sanctity of human lives.
Amongst key speakers of the day was Professor Umar Pate, Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Kashere in Gombe State, who skillfully made a presentation with a theme “Debunking rumours and conspiracy theories against Covid-19 vaccines” and charged journalists to always be conscious of their noble roles and responsibility as a robust means of dissemination of information to the public particularly in the fight against the deadly virus. The don likened the battle as a fight between light and darkness which he said will with determination and perseverance, always won by the former.
The second speaker, Dr. Murtala Jibril, a seasoned health expert with specialty in Immunology/Vaccines Development, and also Senior lecturer at Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Bayero University, Kano in his presentation with a theme “Covid-19: Vaccines to the rescue” emphasized that all the conspiracy theories stemmed from selfish interests arguing that none of the claims have any credible source considering that science is completely anchored on empiricism, and not sentiments or assumptions. He chided the conspiracy theorists who in the face of unprecedented death rate in human history continue to peddle baseless rumours that take human lives. Dr. Jibril holds PhD in Immunology and Vaccine Development (University of Manchester, UK)
In a theme “When data speak”, Dr. Njoku further exposed participants on the efficacy of presenting reports with data adding that nothing beats facts instead of subjecting reports to emotions and subjectivity.
The UNICEF Communication Specialist while debunking the absurd, baseless assumptions and conspiracies by some persons who are privileged to be in leadership positions in their respective circles regretted that it is unfortunate that rather than use their influence to the advantage of the society, they choose to drift thereby contributing to the rising confirmed cases of the infection.
He argued that whether the actors deliberately, maliciously or naively constitute a clog in the wheel of progress or not as far as the virus is concerned, that one fact they cannot counter is that people are dieing and many are in the hospital wards with Covid-19 symptoms, hence, a need for them to think positively, and change their propaganda in the interest of the helpless society.
“It is sad that these vaccines people reject due to fears of harm resulting from rumours and conspiracy theories cost governments huge amount of money in foreign currency to procure, but administered free because human lives are sacred.
“And the fact remains that whether the actors engage in the wasteful fight intentionally, mistakenly or mischievously, people are dieing all over the world and many in hospital wards suffering from the virus with symptoms. Hence, it is senseless to embark on such wicked acts of inhumanity to man for selfish motives”, Dr Njoku concluded.
Other speakers include Maulid Warfa; UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Kano, and invited participants. The media dialogue is targeted to equip media practitioners in ensuring that through their advocacy and commitments, more people are vaccinated for the first and second doses as a matter of urgency for their safety and the society at large.
On Friday, to give participants an opportunity for direct assessment, it witnessed a field trip to three vaccination centres namely; Mallam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital at Tarauni Local Government Area, Muhammadu Wase Teaching Hospital at Nassarawa Local Government Area and Gwagwarwa hospital; all in Kano state.
One of the significant incidents during the field trip was the instant vaccination of two journalists-participants at two vaccination centres who overwhelmingly became anxious to get vaccinated after the rumours and conspiracy theories were debunked alongside health benefits of being vaccinated were exposed by experts during the presentation.