COVID-19 VACCINE: WEBINAR PROFFERS WAYS TO PREVENT PUBLIC CRISIS By Adeola Olanrewaju and Omolola Arogundade

COVID-19 VACCINE: WEBINAR PROFFERS WAYS TO PREVENT PUBLIC CRISIS By Adeola Olanrewaju and Omolola Arogundade

Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), held a webinar on Wednesday March 24, 2021 with the theme “COVID-19 vaccines in Africa repurposing drugs in order to stem a public crisis.” The webinar was focused on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dire consequences on the public health system and questions of availability as

Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), held a webinar on Wednesday March 24, 2021 with the theme “COVID-19 vaccines in Africa repurposing drugs in order to stem a public crisis.” The webinar was focused on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dire consequences on the public health system and questions of availability as well as the cost of vaccines to the large population in Nigeria.

The purpose was therefore to examine measures that help avert crisis over the pandemic especially around the vaccines being developed to fight it.

The webinar featured presentations on ’Vaccine distribution and challenges in Nigeria’ by Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency  (NPHCDA);  ‘COVID-19 and the West African Landscape’ by Dr. Joshua Obasanya, Covid-19 Coordinator at West Africa Health Organization (WAHO); ‘Reviewing the African Media Coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic’ by Ms. Mia Malam and ‘Repurposing drugs, Ivermectin and public advocacy’ by Dr. Pierre Kory, President and Chief Medical Officer, Front-Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.

Mr. Deji Adekunle, Deputy Programme Director at PTCIJ while welcoming the participants noted that the issues around Covid-19, the nature of the claims and the scope of the pandemic may have the consequence of leading to misinformation.

In his presentation, Dr. Shuaib, represented by Dr Abdullahi Buluma Garba highlighted Nigeria’s COVID-19 vaccine development plan namely:

  • Planning, coordination and service delivery;
  • Data management, surveillance and micro planning;
  • Vaccine safety, logistics and accountability; and
  • Risk communication and demand generation.

He said a dashboard was deployed to track the status of readiness at the national and state levels in terms of identification of storage facilities and service delivery centers, training of staff, community mobilization and other necessary activities to ensure smooth and efficient deployment. He assured Nigerians that the government is committed to ensuring equity in the distribution of the vaccine to conquer COVID-19. He therefore urged journalists to always obtain the correct information before publishing to avoid misinformation.

In his own submission, Dr. Obasanya outlined the main challenges and action for the future from regional perspectives stating that they include: weak compliance of the population with barrier measures, fighting rumors and misinformation at the national level, access to anti-Covid vaccines beyond the 20% COVAX facility, lack of funds to promote local vaccine manufacturing, vaccine hesitancy and slow application of harmonized guidelines for cross border travels.

Despite these challenges, he said WAHO would continue to reinforce test, improve surge capacities and logistics, work with members of the states to strengthen collaborations on the COVID-19 vaccination plan.

The challenges confronting journalists in the course of the coverage of Covid-19 was the major concern of Ms. Malam. She said there should be no obstacles on their way because ‘’the role of the news media is to give accurate information” and in the context of Covid-19, “journalists are to inform the citizens on vaccine effectiveness”.

Ms. Malam also stated that journalists require training and mentoring more than ever while they also need facts to report accurately. She urged journalist to always get an independent opinion and not publish stories they are not sure about. To ensure the dissemination of accurate information, she also called on pharmaceutical companies and the government to be transparent with their data and policies while scientists should make themselves available to journalists for interviews and fact-checking information.

The thrust of Dr. Kory’s presentation is how Ivermectin, a 40-year-old parasitic drug used safely by 3.7 billion people worldwide can be used to combat Covid-19. According to him, clinical trials in the past six months of the pandemic has shown that in humans Ivermectin:

  • Prevents transmission and development of COVID-19 disease in those exposed to infected patients;
  • Hasten recovery and presents deterioration in patients with mild to moderate disease treated early after symptom onset;
  • Hasten recovery and avoidance of ICU admission and death in hospitalized patients;
  • Reduces mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19; and
  • Leads to striking reductions in case fatality in regions with widespread use.

Reacting to the presentations, a veteran journalist with vast experience in reporting health issues, Mrs. Mojisola Makanjuola said the Media has not done enough in tracking and checking whether the whole system is working.

The participants believed the webinar was timely and thanked the organisers.

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