NPHCDA to counter misinformation about Covid-19 vaccination

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency NPHCDA says following the increasing wave of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine in Nigeria, it is important to address mischief makers.

The Executive Director of the agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, was speaking at the weekly Covid-19 vaccination update in Abuja.

He says it is unfortunate that the right of the public to true and accurate information on matters of collective concern is being threatened by just a few others who are taking advantage of the social media to mislead people about their health.

“As you may already be aware, we are witnessing an increasing wave of Covid-19 misinformation and disinformation that should leave any patriotic Nigerian wondering how long mischief makers want the world to remain in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic itself. The creativity with which some people misinform others and spread misconceptions about Covid-19 vaccination calls for more deliberate, decisive, and consistent steps to counter as well as provide correct and accurate information that will help more people to make informed decisions to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Let me quickly state here that this breach of public right to true and accurate information about Covid-19 vaccination is a challenge to the media which should be taken seriously”, Dr. Shuaib said.

He said that it was evident that Nigeria has made significant progress towards utilizing the four million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine obtained from COVAX facility, and that is why the vaccine roll out has been described as the best in the African sub-region.

“As the country prepares to receive additional vaccine supply to commence phase two of its strategic vaccination plan, our attention has been drawn to yet another level of disinformation targeted at discouraging people from seeking vaccination against Covid-19”, he said.

Anti-vaccine campaigns
The Executive Director also noted that the anti-vaccination elements have come up with a magnetic conspiracy in which they claim and are deceiving people with videos that Covid-19 vaccine creates a magnetic field around the vaccination site and can cause the body to light up an electric bulb.

“As ridiculous as this and other conspiracy theories are, vulnerable people believe them and are therefore continuing to take the risk of avoiding Covid-19 vaccination. Although the people who are manufacturing conspiracy theories about Covid-19 are in the minority, the virulence of the social media increases their reach. For this reason, ladies and gentlemen, it has become necessary for us to confront the false theorists if we really want Nigeria and the world to overcome Covid-19 and recover from its adversities”, he said.

He however advised Nigerians to ignore the conspiracy theories and embrace the jab to save their lives.

“Today as I speak, 2,495,632 people have been vaccinated with the first dose, while 1,370,130 have received their second dose of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Nigeria. Overall, Nigeria has successfully utilized 3.9m doses, representing 96% of the 4,024,000 doses of the vaccines received in the country. Nigeria is poised to achieve 100% utilization of the doses of vaccine it has received in the next few days. This is to ensure that people are protected against Covid-19, and normalcy is restored. We must take informed steps to guard ourselves from being misled by those who are spreading misconceptions about Covid-19 vaccines. It is important for our media to understand that the truth which they hold so high in principle, is at war with falsehood, and therefore every effort must be made to ensure that people are vaccinated against Covid-19 if we want truth to be victorious”, Dr Shuaib added.

The UNICEF Representative at the briefing, Dr. Gupta Gagan, said that in the last few weeks, there has been concerted effort in the social media to discredit the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination in Nigeria.

He commended the NPHCDA for making efforts to replace the misinformation.

“It is important that the media which has played such a critical role in the last three months for the success of the Covid vaccine roll-out, to take up the challenge to replace the false information with the correct information”, Gagan said.

On his part, the World Health Organization representative Dr. Walter Molumbo, said that Nigeria remains the best country in Africa in terms of the number of persons vaccinated.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu

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