Fighting the COVID-19 infodemic

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COVID-19 infodemic

THE National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, last week, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and other prominent Nigerians will be among the first set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on live television to allay peoples’ fears and misconceptions about the vaccine.

It is no doubt in emulation of the United States President-elect Joe Biden, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other heads of state who had similarly received the COVID-19 vaccines on live television to assure their citizens that the vaccines are safe.

Earlier, the NPHCDA had also disclosed that Nigeria hopes to get 42 million doses of the vaccines to cover one-fifth of its population through the global COVAX scheme. The NPHCDA said the initial vaccines would come as part of Nigeria’s plan to inoculate 40 per cent of the population this year and another 30 per cent in 2022.

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About 100,000 doses of the  vaccine is expected to arrive the country by end of January. COVAX, a Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organisation scheme, aims to ensure all countries, especially the low and middle-income countries, have access to a safe, effective vaccine.

There are a number of obstacles, however, to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination. Chief amongst the obstacles are doubts about the real existence of the novel coronavirus infection and the widespread misinformation and conspiracy theories concerning the vaccines and the pandemic as a whole.

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At home, this doubt is further reinforced by the relatively lowknown, verified COVID-19 related deaths. With a population of 1.2 billion, Africa, from the latest data, has about three million confirmed cases of COVID-19 with over 72,000 deaths – a figure proportionally far lower than other regions of the world.

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Globally, there are more than 91 million confirmed cases of the virus and nearly two million deaths according to the latest data released by the US-based Johns Hopkins University. In its update for January 11, 2021, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, reported 101,331 confirmed cases and 1,361 deaths.

Regardless of these alarming figures, myths and misconceptions about the pandemic persist. With the introduction of the preventive vaccines, countries in Europe, the Americas and in Asia have begun mass vaccinations. But the infodemic (epidemic of false information) around the pandemic remains an obstacle to the successful roll-out of vaccination especially in Africa and Nigeria in particular.

While some allege that the vaccines are clandestine methods of incising the biblical anti-Christ marks into recipients’ bodies, others claim that the vaccines are designed to implant electronic micro-chips into peoples’ skins and then link them up with the new 5-G networks for control.

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There are also unsubstantiated claims that the vaccines will alter human genetic composition (Deoxyribonucleic Acid, DNA) – a complex molecule that contains information necessary to build and maintain life.  We make bold to say that all these conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are needless distortions.

The antidote to misinformation is credible information. Government must intensify its efforts to inform and educate the people through all available channels, utilising not just the traditional and mass media, but also the new wave media. Ensuring smooth COVID-19 vaccination process in Nigeria is a task that must be done if the war against the pandemic is to be won.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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