Vaccine Uptake: Media practitioners urged to support advocacy

Dr Charity Binka, Executive Director, African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), has called on media practitioners to support efforts in advocating patronage of vaccine in the country. She urged them to encourage the citizenry to take the relevant vaccinations towards preventing the outbreak of preventable diseases. Dr Binka made the call at an Editor's Forum in Accra, organised by AMMREN in partnership with Ghana Health Service (GHS), World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF on the theme: 'Vaccine uptake in Ghana, role of the media'. The Executive Director said that should be done by demystifying false information and fears, which were discouraging people from taking the vaccines. She said the media had a critical role to play in ensuring its gatekeeping role, helping to shape public perception with effective and comprehensive reportage about vaccine uptake and dispel misinformation among the public, hence the media engagement to support the initiative. Dr Binka said vaccine hesitancy in the public continued to be a worry, adding that until everyone took the vaccines in the country, the entire population was not safe. 'Vaccination is important in the lives of every individual and it has saved the lives of many from death and protected the adult population and it is necessary to ensure continuous uptake to save the lives of children, pregnant women and the general population,' she stressed. According to the GHS, vaccination has been an important component of healthcare delivery in the country, however, acceptance and uptake of the vaccines continued to be a challenge as the citizenry refused to take the vaccines due to misconception among the public. The GHS currently has 14 vaccines as its routine vaccination, which are Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), Tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type B, Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal diseases and Rotavirus diarrhoea. The rest are Measles, Rubella, Yellow fever, Neisseria Meningitis and Malaria. Dr Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Pr ogramme Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at GHS, said immunization had eliminated most of the childhood killer diseases as well as reduced under five mortality deaths in the country. He said urban and peri-urban communities had not achieved full coverage due to false information, high in population size and hard to reach communities,adding that efforts were being made to cover the entire population. Dr Amponsa-Achiano, disclosed that out of 20.7 million targeted for the COVID-19 vaccination, 71.8 per cent had at least taken one dose, while 57 per cent had been fully vaccinated, adding that the target had not been fully achieved due to public perception and fear among the public. He said the engagement with the media would go a long way to restore confidence among the population to ensure public safety. The Programme Manager said getting the entire population to take the vaccines remained necessary to achieve herd immunity and ensure the safety and total protection of everyone in the count ry. Dr Frank John Lule, Officer in Charge of WHO Country Office, Ghana, said immunization stood as one of the remarkable achievements in the history of public health and had significantly reduced the burden of infectious diseases and saved countless lives. 'Today, smallpox is no more a threat to humanity, and the burden of diseases, including polio, measles, tetanus, yellow fever, and meningitis just to mention a few that once killed many children and maimed others have significantly reduced, thanks to vaccination,' Dr Lule said. He said the media had the responsibility to hold authorities accountable for sustainable and efficient vaccine distribution, while the sector ensured equitable access to vaccines for all regardless of socio-economic status or geographic location to achieve health for all. Mr Albert Dwumfour , President, Ghana Journalists Association, acknowledged that the attainment of vaccination objectives for particular diseases had been a challenging endeavour, owing to vaccine hesitancy enge ndered by misunderstandings, apprehensions, and false information. Mr Dwumfour said the situation required further efforts from a range of stakeholders, including the media, to alter the prevailing discourse to address vaccine hesitancy. He said capacity building and welfare for Journalists were GJA's major priorities and commended AMMREN and the partners for the initiative to get the media well informed and help shape public perception. The media engagement with AMMREN would be preceded with sensitisation, intensive training for media persons, radio and television discussions and possibly, the establishment of a National Media Vaccine Watch Network towards getting everyone vaccinated to achieve herd immunity for the safety of all. Source: Ghana News Agency