NEWS COMMENTARY: Calls for behavioral change towards Covid-19 vaccination.
Ghana last Wednesday received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines through the WHO global vaccine-sharing program. The 600,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca Vaccines were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, representing part of the first wave of COVID 19 vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries. The delivery is part of the first wave of arrivals that will continue in the coming days and weeks. With this, Ghana became the first country outside India to receive COVID-19 vaccines shipped via the COVAX Facility. This is deemed a historic step towards the goal of ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
The arrival of the vaccines in Ghana is said to be the first batch shipped and delivered in Africa by the COVAX Facility as part of an unprecedented effort to provide at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. We are told there are now several vaccines in use to help fight the disease. At least seven different vaccines are known now to have been administered. The first mass vaccination was started in early December 2020 and as of 15th February this year, about 175.3 million vaccine doses have been administered across the globe.
The vaccines have arrived at a time when the country is experiencing a severe resurgence of the pandemic. Ghana’s COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in just over two months as against the beginning of the pandemic in March last year. As of this week, nearly 82,000 cases have been reported in the country, with almost 600 sadly passing on to glory. As if this is not bad enough, several unbelievable speculations have emerged concerning administering the vaccines. Because of this, fear and anxiety have gripped many people who will have to be vaccinated against the disease due primarily to their health conditions or their professions.
According to virologists, although some of the vaccine’s side effects are similar to the symptoms of COVID-19, the coronavirus vaccines won’t give you COVID-19. The vaccines will also not make you contagious. For most people, the side effects of the vaccine are mild or moderate and last only a day or two. The sudden emergence of the Coronavirus and its rampant spread coupled with the devastating effect on socio-political, educational, health, economic, religious, and family lives around the globe, as well as the misunderstanding and misbelieve concerning the use of the COVID-19 vaccines have necessitated proactive and pragmatic measures to conscientise and encourage the people to embrace the vaccine.
People accept and act upon social norms when such norms are better understood and appreciated in our social settings. For this to take place, vigorous and consistent sensitisations have to take place. The authorities have to extend a specified health promotion, public outreach and awareness on administering the coronavirus vaccines to vulnerable populations. This is because some citizens have taken the unfortunate stance that they will not participate in the mass vaccination against the virus. The connotation here is that such individuals are putting themselves at risk and jeopardizing efforts of governments in the fight against the disease, which took the entire world unawares. Circumstances and projections by health managers are such that, Coronavirus will linger around for a while.
The vaccines are what will be used to help curb the spread of the disease. The need for the people to understand and appreciate the use of vaccines and the continuation of public health protocols are paramount to humanity’s survival. Behavioral change communication is the most vital for the initiation and sustenance as well as the enactment of COVID-19 protocols and acceptance of the vaccines as an integral part of social and public behavior. This is known to have been used to promote health and other behavior against the disease around the globe. Effective Behavior Change Communication strategy is always crucial in ensuring all behavioral aspects of disease prevention and control.
Under this, the provision of accurate, precise, relevant and timely information to the public on the urgent need to employ the use of the COVID-19 vaccines is the surest means to contain the virus.
BY DR. NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT.