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oronaviruses have been around for much longer than we know it, and were initially discovered in 1965. According to WHO coronaviruses are a set of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), and COVID-19 which explains the constant discovery of new strains of the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic which was discovered in Wuhan China in 2019, seemed to be no threat at first especially for us on the African continent. For many in the beginning, the effects of the virus could well have been happening on another planet. The widely held belief was of a disease that only affected the “white man”. Even when the news broke of the virus infecting 75,000 people and causing 2000 deaths in Wuhan alone most were alarmed but still quietly confident that there would be no impact on the continent.
Underestimating the virus was our first mistake, as it was carried on transnational flights, around the world boat voyages, and even cross-border road journeys at a dizzying pace. Many Nigerians, a characteristically proud people, still believed the virus posed no harm to us even after it had broken into our ecosystem. “The virus thrives in cold places”, “it can’t survive the heat” were some of platitudes mouthed by many as a psychological defence mechanism. But the cases of infected people grew rapidly. The numbers kept rising as it became apparent that nowhere was safe. On social media, we saw daily reports of those whose family members had been infected by the virus. The virus had turned paradise into a bleak waterless desert, with no oasis in sight. The constant rumors quaked the people with fear as it dawned on them that the virus was the final boss in this game and the world had lost many lives trying to defeat it.
Time went by and the death rate had gotten to millions. Hope began to dwindle and it seemed our scientists were not knights after all. A whole year went by and we began to adjust to the fact that the COVID-19 was a virus we’d just have to learn to live with like malaria or HIV. The fear of this becoming our new reality was indeed horrifying. The heartbreaking truth that we may have to deal with an endless era of social distancing, this is a sacrifice we had to make to avoid the snare of the virus.
Scientists began seeking a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus in early 2020. The research and consequent trials had yielded excellent results, and, by December 2, drug giant Pfizer and German biotech firm, BioNTech became the first vaccine to gain approval. The initial reaction world over was one of joy and relief but it quickly turned into skepticism and hesitancy towards the vaccine. Speculations that scientists had found a cure to the raging pandemic had begun to seep into the media and blogs began to drip-feed various conspiracy theories on the authenticity of the vaccine. Social media critics had taken it upon themselves to give unsolicited advice on the agenda behind the sudden appearance of the vaccine. A popular myth was that the COVID-19 vaccine makes you magnetic, or that it delivered an implanted by the government to track and control citizens. Such notions were successful in causing paranoia despite their absurdity. The initial fear of the virus enabled these speculations. The virus itself was so destructive people had developed the mindset that it was indestructible, leaving room for skepticism towards the authenticity of the vaccine.
An Anti-vaxxer on relapse of COVID-19 cases.
Those who went through with the vaccination regardless of the rumors are confronted with more troubling news like that above causing them to panic and most likely advise others against taking the vaccine. The Moderna vaccine which is commonly used in preventing the COVID virus has been proven to have 94.1% efficacy. The figures are encouraging from what we’ve seen so far but social media continues to perpetuate contradictory narratives.
Premium Times reports on vaccine skepticism in Sokoto.
A war of words is waged between the pro vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers, and from the vaccine rates in Nigeria, it seems the anti-vaxxers wield both the pen and paper. Meanwhile, the United States government makes strategic plans to increase the rate of vaccination amongst its population.Olivia Rodrigo, a popstar icon amongst the youth was present at the White House briefing room to help spread the message about the importance of youth vaccination. The beloved superstar is a role model to youths and is being used as a mediator between the government and the youths to stimulate vaccination amongst the youths.
The coronavirus is definitely not a one-trick pony, as it unleashes its latest act – the delta variant. More transmissible than the earlier incarnations, but, as they say in show biz, the show must go on. This variant has spread across 105 countries including Nigeria. Threatening the world with a third wave, they began to worry that this new variant was set off by the vaccine itself. Closer to home in Lagos, the recent resurgence of the virus has led to the temporary closure of two prominent private schools,Lagoon Girls Secondary School and Standard Bearer Secondary School as reported by The Vanguard newspaper. Yale Medicine, Yale School of Medicine’s clinical practice, reported that various vaccines have an efficacy rate of 72-95%, these ratings are more than promising but the populace is no longer impressed by numbers. It seems it’s going to take more than that to secure their trust in the vaccine.
Celebrities and influencers who have received the vaccine have a huge impact on the decisions of people. With such a platform they could use this to push back on the notion that vaccines are ineffective and change the hearts of anti-vaxxers. Most communities have more trust in these social media influencers than in their own government and would willingly follow in their footsteps without hesitation. Popstars, movie stars, popular content creators, and even pastors with a large following could play a hand in encouraging vaccination, the government could endorse these celebrities for their help in initiating vaccination campaigns on their platforms to lend a hand in changing the hearts of the anti-vaxxers. It is likely that one or two persons in their audience are anti-vaxxer and could have a change of hearts towards the vaccine after a convincing speech from someone of stature.
The media should also flag false information concerning the effectiveness of the vaccine and display news that supports vaccine immunization on the timeline. Social media platforms should apply this mechanism more widely to false or misleading information about vaccination as we’ve seen applied to political misinformation during the 2020 US Elections. As for print media, a thorough fact check is essential to make sure the information put out does not dissuade their readers from vaccination. This goes a long way to reduce false and misleading information which fuels the doubts around the efficiency of the vaccine. The Nigerian government and people might be best served by this laser-guided focus on the regulation of social media companies around information pertaining to COVID-19 and vaccination as opposed to trying to suspend them.
The COVID-19 vaccine should also become a criterion for those attending work, school, churches, and any other place where gatherings are held – an approach that has been adopted by the French and other European jurisdictions to varying degrees. As of July 2021, Reuters reports that Nigeria has administered 3,938,945 doses of the vaccine, which makes up just 1% of the country’s population. With more vaccinated people there will be less circulation of doubtful information about the vaccine.
The saying “ignorance is the root of misfortune” applies to most of the anti-vaxxers who are not well informed about the vaccine or the dangers of the contagious disease. A lot of speculations around the distribution of the vaccination are caused by ignorance like assuming that the vaccine is only essential for elderly people and not the youth. Ignorance contributes to people doubting their need for the vaccine, vaccination campaigns should emphasize the importance of the vaccine to all age groups. The campaigns should have reach and should be advertised in abundance in cities and rural areas.
Another unnerving issue around the vaccine is the period of illness or relapse a few vaccinated people experience after the first dose, triggering concerns that some of the rumors around the vaccine may be true. A period of illness has been known to occur in some cases but, from available information, only lasts for a few days. The comparatively mild symptoms are a small price to pay to blunt the blade of the ravaging COVID-19 and its growing variants. The vaccinated should be encouraged to share their experiences online via social media or in person at social gatherings. Sharing the tales of their mild ailment after the vaccine will help allay the fears of those who are worried about the intensity of the illness phase.
It has also been discovered there’s a possibility to contract the virus even a few days after vaccination. It is advisable to maintain precautionary measures of social distance during the first few weeks of vaccination as it reportedly takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to adapt to the body and build protection around the immune system. Those who have come in contact with Covid infected people during the first weeks of their vaccination have experienced a relapse of the virus.
Southbridge Group’s CEO Andrew Alli describes his experience on Twitter
One look at the bigger picture and it becomes clearer that with each dispensed dose of the vaccine a handful of people are at a lesser risk of contracting the virus. Taking the vaccine is not just a survival tactic but also a selfless act when you begin to consider those who cannot afford to get the COVID-19 treatment if they contract the virus or those who do not have a strong enough immune system to withstand the wrath of the virus. With two doses the likelihood of watching your loved ones endure the gruesome pains is greatly reduced. Rational thinking would show that the fear of this coronavirus and its variants surpasses the fear of the vaccine but also social distancing might not be sufficient or always within your control. Your immune system needs more than ginger and lemon tea to stand a fighting chance against the virus. Getting vaccinated is the way to ensure it has one.comments powered by Disqus