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Experts articulate on awareness, education as Nigeria awaits COVID-19 vaccine

As Nigeria awaits the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in Nigeria before the end of January to receive 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, experts say that for Nigerians to accept COVID-19 vaccine in order to help contain the pandemic, and achieving high vaccine uptake rates will require comprehensive communications efforts to manage public expectations and counter vaccine doubtfulness.

They say there is an urgent need for more education as Nigerians need clear, accurate messaging on realistic COVID-19 vaccine timelines, efficacy, safety, benefits, possible side effects, with messages tailored to specific populations as needed.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Statistics recently released the sixth installment of its COVID-19 Impact Monitoring, a survey of 1,950 households across the country that it conducts with support from the World Bank, one major result of this sixth installment is that the vast majority (90%) of respondents reported that they were willing to get tested for and vaccinated, if it were free.

“This waiting period should be utilised to educate the public about the real versus perceived potential side effects of the vaccines, as well as the consequences of taking versus not taking it,” said Nseabasi Ekanem, public health expert, founder and chief executive officer of Trinity Healthcare Foundation.

“This is a time where we should engage the community, much more, because a lot of Nigerians have been fed with rumors with all amount of information on WhatsApp voice note videos, wanting them to stay away from the vaccine.”

Ekanem suggested a campaign is mounted to help people understand the vaccines.

“Now, is not about bringing the vaccine, its about who will take the vaccine. Nigerians already have demonstrated apathy for this vaccine and I can bet you that a lot of Nigerian, a whole lot of Legends will not take this vaccine, with the start to score.

“So I feel that one of the things we should be doing at this time is to engage Nigerians now, let us try to analyze the information that is already going viral on social media by telling Nigerians to digest what actually, the truth is, and ensure that Nigerians received all the information or the need to know about diversity.

“This has to be done in an easy-to-understand manner and be repeated across all ways. From social media to news, to every means of communication. Get the mosques, churches and etc involved,” he said.

The Mordena vaccine is the one Nigeria is expecting and what we can use in Africa based on our weather conditions. Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can be stored in the freezer between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and 5°F).

These temperatures are within the appropriate range for other vaccines stored in the freezer but the temperature range for this vaccine is tighter. If storing the vaccine in a freezer with routinely recommended vaccines, carefully adjust the freezer temperature to the correct temperature range for this vaccine.

“Nigeria has enough storage space for the initial quantities of vaccines expected January ending and is in the process of procuring additional ultra cold chain equipment for wide-scale deployment of mRNA vaccines,” Faisal Shuaib, executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

“There is sufficient storage capacity for COVID-19 vaccines requiring storage at the normal refrigeration temperature at + 2 to +8,. Government has enough vaccine freezers and refrigerators to store both at the ultra-cold chain temperatures and the normal + 2 to + 8. “The vaccines will be transported to the lower level using boxes with dry ice.”

Similarly, Azuka Okeke, regional director, The Africa Resource Centre (ARC) said as countries around the globe prepare to roll out highly complex COVID-19 vaccination, misinformation and pervasive myths about COVID-19 and vaccine programs in general undermine confidence and acceptance may fuel mistrust, and in turn success.

“We need to look at addressing communication and raising the right awareness that vaccines are useful. The government should prioritize a plan for communication by doing more on sending the right information.

Okeke, citing previous efforts said we did very well when the pandemic came into or when we were preparing by setting up like the update from the presidential Task Force, so people had access and even links to help or questions on vital information. Most importantly, the right updates and sources of information to go out to the masses.

“The general messaging is simple: what, why, and how.

“What are the types of vaccinations, dosages, potential expected side effects; why is the purpose of vaccination; to protect the frontline health workers or those who are vulnerable for now, and build group immunity later; and how is the logistics details, how the public can access the vaccination,” she said.

When commenting on planning, Okeke said for Nigeria, we need to come with a plan and getting the number of vaccines as we do not need to have so much vaccine that is not according to the plan of the nation.

“In general, a lot more work needs to be done in the area of communication, people need to know the value of the COVID vaccine for them as it applies to them and preparation comes from a level of awareness.”

Here are some precautions you and your family can take to help avoid infection:

Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

Keep at least 1 metre distance between yourself and others.

Seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other symptoms of COVID-19.

Avoid crowded places, confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, and try to practice physical distancing from people in public.

Wear fabric masks when in public places where there is community transmission and where physical distancing is not possible.

Wash the mask with soap and water frequently.

Keep all indoor spaces well ventilated

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