Notes to broadcasters
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“Vaccine hesitancy” is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a state of being conflicted about, or opposed to, getting vaccinated.
Vaccine-hesitant individuals have varying degrees of indecision, doubt, or concern about specific vaccines or all vaccines. Some vaccine-hesitant individuals may accept all vaccines but remain concerned about them. Others may refuse or delay certain vaccines but not others.
In Africa, as elsewhere, vaccine hesitancy has been motivated by a range of factors: lack of confidence, lack of trust, and a lack of supportive social influences. Some concerns about vaccine safety stem from its quick development, and this is made worse by unverified claims of deaths following immunization in Europe. African governments have struggled to secure vaccines in a system where wealthy countries take the lion’s share, shining a spotlight on global inequities. For most of the region, that challenge continues. But as vaccine campaigns finally begin to roll out across the continent, this lingering distrust is coming into sharp focus.
Public health experts argue that these fears can be countered with accurate, targeted, and culturally appropriate information. This is empasized by Dr. Salim in this script, where we hear what is being done by the Ministry of Health in Kenya to convince people to overcome vaccine hesitancy. Fom Abdi and Allan, we hear some of the reasons people give for not taking the COVID-19 vaccines.
If you want to produce a similar program about COVID vaccine hesitancy, you could use this script as a guide. If you decide to present the script on your regular program, you could use voice actors or radio hosts to represent the interviewees. In this case, please inform your audience at the beginning of the program that these are the voices of voice actors, not the actual interviewees.
If you want to create programs about vaccine hesitancy, talk to a public health officer or community health worker.
You could ask them the following questions, among others:
- What can happen if many people don’t take the COVID-19 vaccine?
- How can people be convinced that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?
- How can you encourage individuals or groups to convince others to take up the vaccine?
Duration of the entire program including intro and outro: 20-25 minutes.
The disease has caused millions of deaths worldwide, and one of the strategies to control the pandemic is mass vaccination. More than 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered worldwide, and vaccines have played a critical role in preventing serious disease and death from COVID-19.
In today’s program, we find out why some people in Kenya are hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccines and what measures are being taken by the Kenyan Ministry of Health to change their minds.
First, about the development of the COVID-19 vaccines … During the pandemic, an incredible amount of money was made available to fund vaccine research, and scientists around the world pulled together and shared their data. Thanks to this, scientists were able to create the vaccines very quickly.
Also, researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades and have learned a lot from two other coronaviruses that affected humans in the past 20 years: SARS and MERS. After the virus that causes COVID-19 was identified, scientists mapped its genetic information within two weeks. This helped them identify exactly what kind of vaccine would work against COVID-19.
However, you can be sure that no shortcuts were taken, and all the necessary steps were followed to make sure that the vaccines are safe and effective. The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use meet strict standards set by government health agencies in countries around the world. And studies about the vaccines continue to this day!
In fact, studies show that you are more likely to get a blood clot from being infected with COVID-19 than you are from any COVID-19 vaccine!
And Allan, about your final concern: COVID-19 is a risk to everyone, young and old! Getting sick with COVID-19 can have serious lasting impacts on your health and well-being. Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19.
There were also concerns that the vaccines being distributed in Africa were inferior or fake. This is untrue as well. The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use meet strict standards set by government health agencies in countries around the world.
Unfortunately, though these rumours are untrue, they can scare people away from taking the vaccine. So I urge our listeners to listen to doctors and health professionals, and be very wary of fake news, misinformation, and rumours. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
Right now, we have millions of vaccines but we have few people coming for them because of the hesitancy that we are trying to address.
We also address myths and misconceptions on media online using The Ministry of Health portal and website. The president and Minister of Health also communicate the real situation concerning COVID and the vaccine. Within the ministry, we also have the rumour tracker system looking out for information that is false online and countering it by giving factual information. Frequently asked questions on the Ministry of Helath portal are always being reviewed to capture any concerns from the public and give the right information. Every week, we can determine what is the main myth or rumour circulating and address it with facts.
For breastfeeding women, we have seen that it’s possible for the COVID-19 vaccine to pass through breastmilk to breastfeeding newborns. This means that breastfeeding women who get vaccinated may also be passing on protection against COVID-19 to their babies, which is an amazing thing.
Many women also worry that the vaccine may interfere with their reproductive system, cause a change in their menstrual cycle, and eventually cause infertility. But this is untrue. Vaccines do NOT cause infertility. In fact, they do not affect the reproductive system at all.
All these issues had to be addressed for women to understand the vaccines and trust them. I must say that more women are taking the vaccine now and we have been able to make a lot of progress in the last six months. So yes, to answer your question, women are excellent champions for the COVID-19 vaccines.
Contributed by: Winnie Onyimbo, Trans World Radio, Nairobi, Kenya
Reviewed by: The World Health Organization
This resource is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada as part of the Life-saving Public Health and Vaccine Communication at Scale in sub-Saharan Africa (or VACS) project.
Amref health Africa, 2001. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: vaccination intentions and attitudes of community health volunteers in Africa. https://amref.org/download/vaccination-intentions-and-attitudes-of-community-health-volunteers-in-kenya/?wpdmdl=10938&refresh=62a24963dc6f31654802787
McDonald, M. E., 2015. Vaccine hesitancy: Definition, scope and determinants. Vaccine,
Volume 33, Issue 34, Pages 4161-4164. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X15005009?via%3Dihub
Mutombo, P. N., et al, 2022. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Africa: a call to action. The Lancet Global Health, Volume 10, issue 3, e320-e321. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00563-5/fulltext#back-bib3
Wiysonge, C. S., 2019. Vaccine Hesitancy, an Escalating Danger in Africa https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/vaccine-hesitancy-escalating-danger-africa
Mr. Allan Mwangi, interview conducted on May 26, 2022
Mr Abdi Ahmed, interview conducted on May 23, 2022
Dr. Salim Hussen, Head of Department of Primary Health Care at Ministry of Health Kenya. Interview conducted on June 3, 2022