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COVDI-19: Ways to tackle vaccine hesitancy -Experts

While the developed world has gone far in terms of vaccination coverage, Africa, and Nigeria especially, still lags behind thereby slowing the achievement of the…

While the developed world has gone far in terms of vaccination coverage, Africa, and Nigeria especially, still lags behind thereby slowing the achievement of the 70% vaccination target.

However, efforts are being intensified to ramp up the vaccination through the collaborative drive of stakeholders. The partnership between the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF) is one of the steps toward correcting the misinformation about the safety of the vaccine and the need for citizens to get vaccinated. 

The NSSF, Daily Trust reports, had earlier vowed to vaccinate one million Nigerians through its vaccination programme after clinical trials and surveillance showed the crucial need for COVID-19 vaccination in preventing deaths.

To drive the communication around vaccine confidence, NPHCDA and NSSF held a virtual roundtable discussion tagged ‘Vaccine Confidence in Nigeria’ which was aimed at lowering vaccine hesitancy.  

A team of panellists, including policy experts, foundations, civil society organisations, community leaders and faith-based organisations all voiced concerns about the vaccine hesitancy which has slowed down vaccination.

Among the panellists were Michael Fornwall of Merck For Mothers; Tijjani Mohammed, Advocacy and Communications – Nigeria; Alhaji Samaila Muhammad Mera, Emir of Argungu Camp, Chairman, Northern Traditional Leaders Committee (NTLC); Bishop Sunday Onuoha (Nigerian Interfaith Action Association NIFAA) and Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Country Representative.

The Vice-chairman of NSSF, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede said, “This roundtable discussion puts us in the right place, at the right time to accelerate the exchange of ideas and scaling-up of good practices to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.”

The Executive Director/CEO, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “The issue of vaccine hesitancy is something that is global but within the context of Nigeria, there are different issues driving this hesitancy. Tapping into global practices is going to be very critical for us as a country.”

The General Manager, Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund, Dr Fejiro Chinye-Nwoko, advocated the integration of COVID-19 vaccinations into routine vaccinations, saying that would bring greater benefits to the people.

Speaking on best practices in building vaccine confidence, COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication and Education (CONVINCE), Prof. Heidi Larson, said “The most important lesson in building vaccine confidence is to listen and understand, map the issues, and design the interventions to fit the needs of the people first; citing examples of how countries doused negative emotions about the vaccines and were able to build trust and uptake by leveraging emotions of hope and empathy.” 

One of the panellists, Michael Fornwall, from Merck for Mothers, on his part, said, “Building confidence in vaccination and creating resilient immunization programmes require a coordinated approach. 

“It would require government, stakeholders and leadership commitment. Effective health systems, policies, and programme coordination, supportive, positive community and individual experiences to drive confidence and demand in the country.”