By Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta
Ogun State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Waheed Odusile, has lamented the apathy of Nigerians towards COVID-19 vaccine despite huge investment of the government and its development partners to make these vaccines available.
Alhaji Odusile revealed that despite all measures taken so far by the government, it was quite disturbing that many Nigerians, especially those in the sub-urban and rural areas have not shown sufficient motivation to voluntarily get vaccinated against the virus.
He explained that for instance, World Health Organisation (WHO) had last year May projected that by September of 2021 10% population of every country of the world must have been vaccinated against COVID-19 but as at last November, Nigeria was only able to vaccinate 2.8% of its over 200 million population.
He stated that even after the government as a way to further curtail march of the pandemic through Nigeria National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), flagged off COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Campaign in most states of the federation, with Ogun as one of the pilot states for the programme, many people are still not willing to take the vaccine
Alhaji Odusile disclosed further that to solve this challenge, it is imperative for the media to engage in collaborative effort to assist the government in pushing to the grassroots sensitisation about the reality of COVID-19 and the need for the people to embrace the vaccination which is safe and healthy for all.
The Commissioner for Information made this call on Tuesday at Rolaks Hotel, Ijebu Ode, while declaring open one day media advocacy meeting on COVID-19 vaccination uptake sponsored by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Ogun State government.
The one day workshop had in attendance selected journalists, media executives as well as information officers from the 20 local governments and the Ministry of Information.
Alhaji Odusile appealed to the media to be at the forefront of helping to spread the messages of safety of COVID-19 vaccine with a view to ensuring that people embrace taking the vaccine.
He said, “The government of Gov. Dapo Abiodun is fully committed to ending this pandemic by ensuring that everyone is vaccinated. The least the media can do is to join forces with the government by helping to mobilise people to get this vaccine.
“It is safe, available and accessible. We must not lower our guard and think that it is over with COVID-19. All those who are yet to take this vaccine must come out and do so. We must also not forget to continue with the non-medical practice of social distancing, hand washing, use of nose masks to fight off the virus.”
Describing media as potent agent of change, Odusile urged the media practioners to begin to use their various platforms as a springboard for effecting positive behavioural change towards people’s disposition to the COVID-19 vaccines.
He said that “On our part as government, we will continue to strengthen our bond with development partners, while ensuring that the well-being of residents is prioritized at all times.”
Speaking at the programme, the Coordinating Director, Ogun State Ministry of Information, Mr Lanre Ogunyinka lauding the past efforts of the media in combating the pandemic said until the situation returns to normalcy, media practioners must consistently remain proactive at dishing out to the public, appropriate information, situation reports and renewed hope, just as government continues to work hard to defeat the virus.
Mr Ogunyinka tasked Information Managers at the event to support the success of the ongoing mass vaccination exercise against COVID-19 which started last year with adequate reportage and other public enlightenment programmes to help defeat some of the misconceptions about the vaccination among others.
He said, “It is our hope to beat the virus for good. Despite the disposition of some of our people to the virus and its consequences for individuals and society alike, the fact remains that the virus is real.
“As such, we must, as professionals, saddle ourselves with the responsibility of informing the public about the development impetus that would impact positively on their well-being, through awareness campaigns in the form of news reports, articles, features, interviews, documentaries, and other vital means of informing to provoke the right attitudinal change and such that will convince a majority of our people in Nigeria on the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Ogunyinka commended development partners like UNICEF for its unrelenting efforts and partnership towards ensuring well being of residents of the state and Nigeria as a whole
The Director of state immunization programme, Dr Suraj Olayinka said that the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and that the state had so far vaccinated about 1 million people against the deadly virus.
Other speakers at the seminar included Dr Goke Rauf, a Media Consultant to UNICEF and lecturer with Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta as well as Alhaji Elegbede, State Health Educator among others.’