At last hope is in the horizon. Showing like the cloud that was the size of a man’s hand that led to a heavy downpour thus ending years of drought in the times of Elijah the Tishbite prophet, the mass vaccinations against COVID 19 have begun though it will be a while before everyone gets a jab. In earnest, most nations in the global South, Kenya are showing very promising vaccine uptake among their populations.
This gives makes surrel the return to the “normal” and the beginning of the pull from the doldrums of the pandemic which range from loss of jobs to disrupted school calendars. Months after the Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine showed efficacy in control of the coronavirus, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The endgame of these vaccines will be to bring an end to the pandemic. However, the existence of an anti vaxxer brigade in Kenya threatens the effective roll out of the vaccines to the public since many Kenyans may refuse to take the jab. Such a case can best be illustrated by the resistance to the Polio vaccine in Kenya in 2014.
An Ipsos poll in 2014 on the polio vaccine indicated found that around 45% of Catholics and 65% of Christians of other denominations felt that the vaccination drive was intended to depopulate the nation. 77% of Kenyans in the former North Eastern province were against the administration of the vaccine on similar grounds.
Raila Odinga, a top Kenyan politician, is on record for calling this polio vaccination drive a targeted mass sterilization program in 2017. With almost similar sentiments having being aired in the social media for the past few months regarding some the coronavirus vaccines, fears arise that such misinformation may hamper the uptake of vaccines by Kenyans. This will result in failure to effectively control the spread of the virus yet vaccines will have been administered.
This can be averted through several means. Firstly, there will be need for effective public awareness programs on the importance of the jab. This should be done in all corners of the country and even in local languages in instances where they are most appropriate. Leaders and health workers must also be at the forefront of receiving the jabs and can take pictures of themselves doing so and share them on social media. This will help dissipate the notion that the vaccines are unhealthy and are meant to control populations.
It is noteworthy that a section of Kenyans believes that COVID 19 is unreal and is only a ploy by some government officials to hoodwink Kenyans that a disease exists so that they may get an avenue to siphon public funds though the initiatives that strive to tame the virus. Such a public that has become increasingly skeptical government initiatives will have to be reassured that the vaccination drive is for their own benefit and that none of the government officials benefit financially from the vaccination process.
The public also needs to be informed of how the vaccines have been transported and stored beforehand. This will help in convincing those who doubt the cleanliness and purity of the vaccines to take the jabs. The mode of administration should also be communicated in order to fritter the rumor that the vaccines have something to do with marks associated with end times among Christians.
There will be need to reinforce the trust that people have in vaccines if the vaccine drive is to succeed. This can be done through explaining to the public how vaccines have been critical in eradicating diseases like polio from the face of the earth and how the same can happen if they are all vaccinated against COVID 19.
People’s attitudes to vaccines can be changed through the emphasizing on the effects of refusal to be vaccinated to the general public. As such, the vaccination drive must be seen by anti vaxxers as an activity that seeks to save humanity from annihilation by an invisible enemy. Explaining to the seriousness of the symptoms that COVID 19 and the number of lives it has taken across the will also play a critical role in changing the minds of individuals who may be opposed to taking the jab.
There will also be need for the media to play a critical role in offering factual information on vaccines in cases where misinformation arises. This can be done through fact checker sections of newspapers and news programs.
Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Secretary General, recently said that no one is safe from COVID 19 till the virus is defeated everywhere. COVID 19 can only be defeated everywhere if anti vaxxers are sensitized on the critical aspect of the vaccines and those who are targeted by the Ministry of Health to be vaccinated are actually vaccinated. Only then will the COVID 19 pandemic be defeated.