In an effort to combat diphtheria and vaccine hesitancy, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has called on affected states to launch extensive education campaigns.
The director-general of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, speaking in Abuja, emphasised the importance of educating the public and addressing vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine hesitancy has posed a significant challenge to achieving widespread immunization coverage in Nigeria. Factors contributing to this hesitancy include a lack of awareness, cultural and religious beliefs, fear of side effects, and mistrust in the healthcare system. In response, the national infodemic management team is working to debunk myths and misconceptions surrounding vaccines and address these issues head-on.
Adetifa stressed that the affected states should focus their campaigns on providing accurate information about vaccines, their benefits, and the rigorous testing and safety protocols vaccines undergo. By disseminating this knowledge, individuals can make informed decisions based on scientific evidence, reducing misinformation’s impact.
Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in addressing vaccine hesitancy. They should be equipped with up-to-date knowledge and communication skills to effectively address concerns and provide evidence-based information to the public. Their expertise can help dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding vaccines.
Community engagement is another key strategy in tackling vaccine hesitancy. Involving community leaders, religious figures and influencers in vaccine education efforts can help debunk myths within communities. Their influence and trust can bridge the gap between skepticism and acceptance.
Digital platforms are vital in today’s digital age. Leveraging these platforms to share accurate information, debunk myths and address concerns promptly can amplify the message of vaccine safety and efficacy, reaching those who need it the most.
Transparency and accountability are also critical in addressing vaccine hesitancy. Ensuring transparency in vaccine distribution, safety monitoring, and adverse event reporting helps build trust in the healthcare system. Openness and accountability can address concerns about the healthcare system, boosting confidence in vaccine decisions.
Through a combination of vaccine education campaigns, engagement with healthcare professionals and community leaders, the use of local media platforms and transparency in the healthcare system, states can make significant progress in addressing vaccine hesitancy. The goal is to empower individuals to make informed decisions and increase vaccine acceptance and coverage rates.
The recent diphtheria outbreak highlights the importance of vaccination. Nigeria still has over a million children who haven’t received a single vaccination, making it the second-largest group of its kind globally. Adetifa emphasized the need to work collectively to reduce this figure. Every Nigerian child deserves protection against preventable illnesses, and routine immunizations play a crucial role in achieving this.
Adetifa called on state governors to strengthen routine immunisations through community engagement, ensuring health systems are prepared to prevent similar outbreaks in the future. Diphtheria shots are safe and effective at preventing the disease, and they protect against serious and potentially deadly complications.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy through education and community engagement is essential for improving immunisation coverage and protecting the health of Nigerian children. The NCDC pledged its commitment to these efforts, emphasising the importance of vaccination in preventing disease and saving lives.