On Tuesday 1st March, 2022 the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) organized a virtual dialogue to deliberate issues around slow uptake of the COVID19 vaccine. The dialogue which took place via the Zoom platform hosted two public health experts-Dr. Hassan Shuaibu Musa, Principal Medical Officer and Lecturer at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi and Dr. Ma’awuya Aliu as speakers, Hon. Jafar Mohammed Zuru, Commissioner, Kebbi State Ministry of Health gave a keynote address while Dr. Mainasara Yakubu Kurfi, the Head, Department of Mass Communications, Bayero University Kano served as moderator.
The one hour thirty minutes virtual event titled “Discussing COVID19 Vaccine Uptake Series 2.0” began with goodwill message from Hon. Jafar Muhammed Zuru, Commissioner of Health Kebbi State who was represented by Haruna Abdullahi, Director Immunization and Disease Control in the Ministry, in the message he commended CITAD for organizing the dialogue adding that it is a timely effort as it brought qualified stakeholders to deliberate on the vaccination issue, he urged participants from various states to listen to the speakers with interest and make use of the strategies they will share during the dialogue.
Hindrances and factors responsible for slow uptake of the vaccine, hesitancy or non acceptance of the vaccine shared by the speakers during the dialogue included the following:
- Fear of side of adverse effect of the vaccine
- Healthcare workers vaccine hesitancy
- Lack of national policy on vaccine administration
- Lack of targeted communication strategy
- Lack of risk communication assessment mechanism and response strategy
- Unavailability of vaccines in some locations
- Lack of sufficient credible information on vaccine efficacy
- Societal perception on the virus and vaccine
- Circulation of false narratives on the vaccine on social media
- Cultural and traditional beliefs on the vaccine
- Poor vaccine administration and delivery
- Poor public knowledge COVID19 asymptomatic patients
It noted was during the dialogue that hesitancy of the vaccine by healthcare workers is heavily and negatively impacting the vaccination exercise, it was also learned that for example in Bauchi state only 11% of the state’s healthcare workers took the vaccine, the concern therefore was how would the public have trust and confidence in the vaccine if healthcare workers are also reluctant to take it? Another issue raised during the dialogue was that many people COVID19 patients are asymptomatic and the public justify their misconception on the virus, for example again in Bauchi state 78% of COVID19 patients were asymptomatic. After intense deliberation on the above areas, questions and comments by the dialogue participants, the speakers recommended the following:
- Taking the vaccine should be made mandatory for all healthcare workers in order to boost confidence of the public on the vaccine.
- States should develop information dissemination and communication strategy to constantly engage the public on the vaccine. By extension it was recommended that live phone-in radio programmes should consistently be aired to provide detailed and sufficient information to listeners in local languages, respond to questions they have as well as use the programme to restrategize the information and communication chain.
- There is the need to have a national and state policy on vaccination, the policy should take into cognizance the contexts and peculiarities of different communities.
- Vaccination authorities should leverage mass gatherings-social, religious, traditional, etc with COVID19 vaccine.
- There is the need to amplify positive testimonies on the vaccine particularly testimonies of people the public will believe and trust.
- There is the need to have a functional risk communication strategy
- States should embark on mass campaign on the mainstream media, social media and local or traditional gatherings.
- Information and communication approach should target behavioural change