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WHO Lauds Health Journalists For Creating Awareness On COVID-19 Hesitancy

The Head of Communications Unit, World Health Organization (WHO) , Ms Charity Warigon has commended Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) for proven to be highly professional by rising to the test of the COVID-19 hesitancy by educating, mobilizing, and creating awareness amongst the populace.

She said that, journalists covering health beats proved their capability and have done an invaluable work over the years and made the difference in helping people make informed decisions and positive choices to promote their health.

Warigon gave this commendation in her goodwill message at the 2nd Annual Conference of ANHEJ on Thursday in Keffi, adding that the theme, “Improving confidence in COVID-19 Vaccine” is timely and apt, as it not only speaks to the present, but also to the future of making Nigerians healthier.

She said; “Journalists can only improve on what we have achieved so far and even do better, as there is so much to attain in driving confidence in the vaccination effort by building trust and continuously being a trusted and reliable source.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, unlike any pandemic in history, has affected everyone and every country in a manner unexpected, although there had been calls and available support to nations to build their health systems and security in preparation for future outbreaks.

“In the earlier phases of the pandemic, there was absence of sufficient knowledge to inform development of vaccines as the sciences were limited, which were exploited by mischief makers, through what we call, infodemics”.

She continued; “If we are to build and/or maintain trust, this noble group and profession is one out of a few that have historically been proven to be trusted to provide information that shape the behavior and lives of generations of peoples the world over.

“The media and journalists are the bridge between scientists and the public. It behoves on every member of the Fourth Realm of the Estate to, as social responsibility, ensure the provision of accurate, timely, credible, understandable, relevant, and actionable information through various communication channels.

“Our messaging must continue to remind the public that, for the foreseeable future, we must continue to wear masks, physically distance, and avoid crowd. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean that we can throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk: relaxing public health and social measures interventions should be done cautiously and with careful attention paid to those who remain unvaccinated.

“On its part, WHO remains resolute in sustaining this mutually beneficial partnership with AHNEJ, towards promoting health and wellbeing, keeping the world safe and serving the vulnerable, to achieve Universal Health Coverage and ensure that no one is left behind”, she stressed.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman of Nigeria Union or Journalists (NUJ) FCT Chapter, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche lamented that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) who are supposed to drive the conference are not actively involved but left it for international organisations.

He affirmed that there is vaccines resistance in Nigeria, this is due to religious, ethnic and political factors.

He, however, charged journalists to work the talk, we must be seen to believe what we preach this will encourage people to get vaccinated.

Similarly, the ANHEJ Board Chairman, Mr Godwin Odemijie charge journalists to focus on issues of mental health, saying, this is affecting many people now.

He also called on journalists to do more of investigative and Human angle stories.

Meanwhile, the President of ANHEJ, Mr. Hassan Zaggi said lack of interest by many Nigerians to receive the COVID-19 vaccine cuts across both the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor in different parts of the country.

He said that, the apathy in the uptake the COVID-19 vaccine by our people, the outright lies and falsehood being spread by enemies of the country concerning the vaccine is the reason we are here today.

His words; “In the next two days, we will channel our energy towards finding workable strategies on how health journalists can convince Nigerians to take the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Together with our senior colleagues and development partners, we will explore new approaches to overcome and silent the many falsehood being spread about the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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