Dispelling public doubts about COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria

By David AROME 

In several forums, Nigerian vaccine administrators have stated their support for COVID-19 vaccination delivery. Over time, research has established that the vaccine is safe for human usage. According to statistics, 3.84 million Nigerians representing about 1.9 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated. This clearly shows that the vast majority of the population has not yet been vaccinated. The ability of the government to attain wider coverage largely depends on the combined efforts of well-meaning Nigerians. 

Ashley David, a health worker with the Federal Medical Center in Lafia, Nasarawa State, and a former COVID-19 patient, spoke about her experience and the importance of getting vaccinated in a telephone interview.   

She explains that vaccination is the surest way to protect ourselves from the virus and further mitigate its spread. 

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Due to the presenting symptoms, which do not suggest anything close to COVID-19, I was a bit skeptical about the possible outcome of the test. The result of the test turned out to be positive, though I was calm when the result was disclosed to me. I accepted the outcome with the hope that the virus was in transit and would clear out of my body system in due course, and I went into isolation for two weeks before recovering completely from COVID-19.   

According to her, the management directive for all health personnel to be tested and vaccinated was a clear indication to clear the air with myriads of misconception stories floating around in the social media spaces about the COVID-19 vaccine and reassure the teeming population that the vaccine is safe for human consumption. The management wants us to take the lead in establishing that the COVID-19 is real and that it exists.  

The experience of being at the isolation center for two weeks was not a good one. I was cut off from friends, coupled with the power outage that greeted my stay at the centre. I struggled to adapt to the period of two weeks spent at the isolation center. One thing that keeps me going is the confidence I have in myself that I will be fine and that the virus will be removed from my system.

Leaving the isolation centre was a big relief for me because it allowed me to catch up with my friends, family and colleagues at my place of work. I was in such a hurry to get vaccinated against COVID-19, knowing fully well that the virus is highly infectious and spreads rapidly. I received the first jab of the vaccine, awaiting the second dose of the vaccine. 

When asked if there was any form of body reaction upon taking the first jab, she noted that she had no reaction before or after taking the vaccine jab. 

She believes that trending misconception stories about COVID-19 and vaccines on social media platforms are intended to distract people from accepting the vaccine and make wider coverage difficult.

On the acceptance of the vaccine uptake, she said the acceptance rate is still low, far below the general expectation. Skepticism fueled by social media misinformation stories have resulted in low vaccine uptake among this important demographic.  

She feels that achieving broader coverage and increasing awareness through various channels, such as social media or traditional media, are required to educate the public about the vaccine’s uptake. In addition, the message should emphasize that the vaccine is intended to protect rather than kill. Furthermore, young people who have received adequate sensitization to the COVID-19 vaccination can participate in the campaign as change agents in their communities. 

Finally, she said we all have a stake in fighting misinformation stories on COVID-19 if vaccine uptake and wider coverage are to be achieved on a large scale. The vaccine is all for our best interest.   

What You Need to Know About Omicron, the New Variant of COVID-19

What is the new variant? 

It is a new highly mutated variant of coronavirus designated by the World Health Organization on November 26, 2021 as Omicron, it also known as the variant of concern.

When was Omicron first detected?

The very first sample of the variant was detected on November 11, 2021 in Botswana, South Africa.

Why are we worried about it?

The new variant has several striking mutation features which is far more than double what the Delta variant carried, raising concerns if prior infections still provide some immunity. 

How transmissible is the new variant?

It is still not yet clear to what extent the new variant spread compared to other variants, including the Delta variant. 

How severe is the new variant?

The severity of the new variant is still unknown. There is currently no evidence that Omicron symptoms differ from those of other variations. It’s crucial to understand that all COVID-19 variations, including the globally widespread Delta variant, can cause serious illness or death, especially in the most vulnerable individuals. 

Will vaccines work against it? 

Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.  

How effective is the current tests?

The widely used PCR test is still being used to detect COVID-19 and other variants, including Omicron.  

What about treatment?

People are being treated in the hospital and treatment is the same treatment is used Omicron variant of COVID–19.

What can we do to stay safe? 

Get vaccinated, wear a mask, sanitize or wash your hands, maintain physical distance, and gather in well ventilated spaces.   

A Fact Checking Technique for Debunking Fake News on COVID-1

The rise of misinformation in Nigeria poses a great threat to the public health of the general population. Combatting this requires building the capacity of Nigeria’s fact-checking community and improving media literacy. Critical questions you must ask yourself to separate the real from the fake are highlighted as follows.     

Do you keep your emotion under check?

The belief system is one of the factors that contribute to the propagation of fake news. At the first sight of any news, it is critical to keep emotions under check. It is important to approach what you hear rationally and critically.   

What is the source of the news or story? 

Anytime you come across stories from a source you have never heard of before, do some fact-digging. In addition, ask critical questions like, “Can I find similar information from other sources?” If not, that’s a good indication that it may not be real. Does any news outlet publish news with any reliable sources? Is the source well-known for their knowledge of the subject? Is there a quote from a researcher, scientist, or interrogative evidence? Also, check the official websites of reputable organizations as it relates to the news or stories, such as World Health Organization etc., to validate the news. 

Are the claims or evidence verifiable? 

Authentic stories or news are backed up with proofs, data, official statistics, quotes from experts, which are subject to verification. Also, you look out for any trace of evidence or scientific proof to validate such claims.

Further verify if the story is not a hoax

Hoax stories are fabricated and false stories that are painted to be true. Social media platforms continue to be a haven for the spread of unverified, fabricated, and false stories. Hoax stories are further verified using the fact checking techniques mentioned.

Does the story include photos or videos? 

Stories containing pictures, photos can be further verified by using Google reverse image search to check if the image has been altered. Google reverse image search allows you to find visually comparable photographs from all across the web in a matter of seconds.

Use a fact checking site 



    Fact checking sites employed team who verify information. The fact-checking site is easily accessible for the search of trending misinformation stories. You can also submit any trending claim for fact-checking. The priority areas of focus vary across the fact-checking sites. A few of the popular fact-checking sites in Africa that stories can be verified are:  https://africacheck.org/, https://factsmatterng.com/


    Consult the expert     

    Always consult a researcher in the field of stories and information if you are not too sure about something online. It is important to know that fact checking remains the first line of defense against fake news.  

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