Mr. Friday Bako of CITAD addressing journalist on need to increase advocacy on COVID-19 vaccine in Plateau.

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – The Implementing Partner on the COVID-19 vaccine public education project of the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD/MacArthur Foundation, Mr. Friday Bako has tasked media practitioners to leverage their profession and create the needed awareness that would improve citizens’ uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine

Bako made the call on Wednesday during a media parley held in Jos where he charged citizens not to lose guard because of the relaxation of the COVID-19 protocols which were in place and meant to stop the spread of the virus.

According to him, “… Global figures of the pandemic as at Tuesday 26th July 2022 are as follows: total cases 576,590,997; total deaths stand at 6,406,003; recovery figure 546,531,513 and active cases (Currently Infected Patients) 23,653,481 of 23,612,044 (99.8%) are in mild condition and 41,437 (0.2%) are in serious or critical condition. New deaths in France; 119 persons. In Nigeria, 260,764 cases were recorded with 3,147 deaths so far and 4,025 active cases. From 23rd to 25th July 2022, 425 new confirmed cases were recorded in 14 States of Nigeria with Lagos State having 124 cases (29%).

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“Plateau State recorded 10,279 confirmed cases, 75 deaths, and 21 persons on admission. This is an indication that the virus is still around hence the need for the citizens to be vaccinated so that we can achieve herd immunity. The citizens mustn’t lose guard because of the relaxation of the COVID-19 protocols which were in place and meant to stop the spread of the virus.”

He further explained that “The ongoing COVID-19 Vaccine Public Awareness Campaign we are executing is a one-year project sponsored by CITAD/MacArthur Foundation to promote vaccine acceptance and access for marginalized groups in the Northern States of Nigeria. The core objectives of this project are to carry out public education on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines to tackle vaccine resistance and hesitancy which in turn will increase the rate of vaccination in the State.

“Monitor the deployment, distribution, and use of the vaccine to promote accountability and transparency in the management of the vaccine working with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the state-level counterparts as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as well as other civil society actors working on health sector accountability. Increase the level of information about access points for getting vaccination by working closely with the State Primary Health Agencies…

“We understand the critical role being played by the Media who are opinion molders, gatekeepers, and sources of accurate information as well as their ability to hold those in authority accountable. This necessitated this parley, as we have observed how fake news, conspiracy theories, and other false claims not scientifically proven have adversely affected the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines. The media is the watchdog of society; you are partners in progress and engaging you will have a significant impact on the actualization of this project.

“We will want to work with you to change the perception of the public about the COVID-19 vaccines which have gone through rigorous processes and are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for both emergency and full use. The COVID-19 vaccines in circulation have been certified by the WHO which is responsible for international public health to be safe, efficacious, harmless, and useful in eradicating the virus… The media must rise to its responsibility of feeding the public with accurate information about COVID-19 and the vaccines by dispelling fake news that has heightened hesitancy….”

However, the Monitoring Assistant for the project, Mr. Alex Audu added, “We are committed to engaging the media, traditional rulers, religious leaders, CSOs, youths/women groups, and other community-based organizations to drive this awareness campaign effectively owing to how important they are.”