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Media plays critical role in covid-19 vaccine uptake

The media, particularly vernacular radio stations have been found to play a key role in influencing people to understand the need for vaccination against Covid-19.

Officials from the Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Health, attending a training workshop for media personnel at a Bomet hotel, cited 83 per cent of the locally owned radios as the only means for area residents to access information, with 54 percent of the local population, terming information relayed from the vernacular stations to be factual.

According to the Bomet County Health Promotion Coordinator Joseah Chumo, hesitancy to get vaccinated among the residents was due to myths, misconceptions and misinformation, peddled by unscrupulous individuals who were reluctant to be immunized.

Chumo said only 16 per cent of the residents have been vaccinated despite, the Government efforts in making sure that all types of vaccines were available in all public health facilities.

He said the concerted efforts by stakeholders in advocating for uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, have been hurdled by unfounded belief that the disease was no longer as serious as it was, when the protocols against the pandemic were still in place.

He said the lifting of protocols including compulsory wearing of face masks in public, hand washing and social distancing was misread by the locals to mean that Covid-19 has been eradicated in the country.

“It is saddening that there is laxity in sticking to the Covid-19 prevention protocols laid out by the Ministry Of Health at such a time, when hospitals including Tenwek, Kaplong and Longisa hospitals are still admitting patients displaying Covid related symptoms,” he said.

“Covid-19 is still alive and is with us here. We must know that there is no known cure for this viral disease. The only remedy is to prevent it through vaccination,” he added.

Chumo said there were general fears and suspicions due to inadequate community sensitization and awareness creation, with a large section of the locals focused on unfounded negative effects of the vaccines including adverse effects on reproductive health, blood clots and sudden death.

He said this was particularly rampant in Sotik and Bomet Central Sub-Counties, which have reported low Covid-19 vaccine uptake.

“That is why we want to engage all the vernacular radio stations in mobilizing the community in those sub-counties to raise vaccination levels to 70 per cent by March 2023,” he said.

“We, in conjunction with the Red Cross Society, have trained reporters from those radio stations on how to lifeline communication aimed at advocating for increment in Covid-19 vaccine uptake,” he said.

According to Robert Yegon, the Red Cross Society Bomet manager, a program that was rolled out in April 2022 and funded by Standard Chartered Bank, aimed at vaccinating 201, 535 people in Sotik and Bomet Central.

Yegon said the Red Cross was conducting a survey, targeting 500 individuals from the two sub counties, on how best to reach out to the targeted number, especially in consideration of hard to reach geographical areas and marginalized members of the society, including the elderly and people living with disabilities.

He said there were enough vaccines in the county and that they have been proven to be highly effective in preventing Covid-19, hence the need to communicate the same in a language that the locals can best understand.

By Kipngeno Korir

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