Medical Scientists plan to develop Science Communication Curriculum to train religious leaders, journalists and scientists on how to disseminate scientific information in an effort to curb resistance to vaccines and other medical products by the public.
Medical Scientist Pro. Francis Muregi from Mount Kenya University is spearheading the development of the programme after noting strong stand-off between religion and science which sometime leads to people to resist government campaigns on vaccines such as covid-19 and polio based on misperceptions.
“Our goal is to find data that will help create a curriculum to teach people on science communication,” Prof. Muregi said in his address to the media during a data collection exercise at Makuti Hotel in Kilifi County.
Accompanied by his team from Mount Kenya and Kenyatta Universities, Pro. Muregi said they aimed at countering misconceptions spread by less informed people as well as to build a good relationship among the stakeholders involved in providing information to the common person so as to communicate the right information. The medical practitioners expressed concern over misgivings on vaccines and medicines scientist spent sleepless nights to develop because people always spread the wrong information once they are brought to the public.
“Those people on the frontline who tell the public about medicines or vaccines should be knowledgeable. The first people we target are religious leaders because they are trusted. So, it is important that the information they provide is true,” he said.
“A person who is a clergy wants to talk about covid-19 vaccination, has no knowledge at all and is depended on by all his followers. So, what will happen is he will give the wrong information, then people will say the Reverend or Sheikh said this so we will not use it,” he narrated.
The researcher revealed that medical scientists have also contributed to public rejection of medical products since they do not come out in public to explain the facts. Therefore, they are part of the syllabus to train them on how they could communicate their science in a way that every person can understand.
The other player that the Medical Research Team targets is the media because they are the key disseminators of information. They intend to bring up journalists who are specialized to medical reporting so as to publish or broadcast correct and accurate information.
Prof. Muregi continued, “People are already scared, even at this time the biggest problem with the uptake of the covid-19 vaccine is that fear because people are spreading rumors that it kills and that people will not have children. That is misinformation,” he noted.
The curriculum will focus on three main areas of training which are science reporting for journalists, science literacy for the clergy and science communication for scientists.
By Jackson Msanzu and Treeza Auma