Vaccinations against Covid and public education: the example of Edo
By Tonnie Iredia
The COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the world since the end of 2019 is still disrupting different communities around the world. While speculation by some scientists that this would be the most disastrous for Africa has not been proven, the continent itself has remained in a state of confusion as to the true nature of the pandemic.
In Nigeria, it is not without charity to conclude that disaster response efforts have been and have been essentially weak. The daily briefings of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) set up under the leadership of the secretary of the Federation government to coordinate efforts were consistent but had little impact on the population.
The lack of understanding on the part of the masses, coupled with the cynicism of the educated elite and the failure of the political class to lead by example, captures the nation’s dilemma well. Rather than embracing the dos and don’ts (i.e. prescribed COVID-19 protocols), different groups blamed each other, thus ratifying the stigma of the pandemic on victims and their victims. immediate families.
Until today, the protocols are even more observed in the breach. Crowd-drawing ceremonies in which the virus can spread uncontrollably have continued without any repercussions. Even the basic requirement of wearing a face mask has since unofficially ended in offices, sports centers and places of worship, etc.
But with the avalanche of reports of imminent danger resulting from a new wave of pandemic – the delta variant that is said to be less visible and yet more deadly, what options are available for Nigeria to avoid the greatest dangers to come? As we carefully consider this matter, we are confident that we applaud the arrangements made by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to protect his people. Last week, the governor announced plans to make it mandatory for residents of the state to be vaccinated against covid and present certification that they did so before entering large gathering areas.
Obaseki, spoke at Government House Benin City, the state capital, while marking the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination exercise in the state. According to the governor, large public gatherings must be controlled given the third wave of COVID-19 which is already causing devastating effects across the country. It is indeed instructive that up to 96 percent of people infected with the Delta variant are those who have not yet been vaccinated.
This clearly explains the determination of the Edo State government to bring as much as 60 percent of its population back to the immunized tranche. The target seems rather too ambitious given that so far only 1.7 of the state’s population of 4.7 million people – just 36% have been vaccinated. While the projection is laudable, the implementation may not be easy, especially if the plan is to rely on the law enforcement agencies that were well represented at the flag ceremony.
Besides the fact that the high level of insecurity in the country has put a strain on our security agencies, some of them are known to market any business. They could, as they did at the start of the lockdown last year, develop a “special pass” that defaulters can purchase to access each event. For this reason, we recommend little law enforcement when great confidence should be placed in the public ownership of the project.
If the public is mobilized to appreciate the great benefits of the provisions, many well-meaning citizens can become advocates for immunization policy. Fortunately, Governor Obaseki has already completed two of the necessary pre-implementation steps. First, he made the arrangement public, and second, he staggered the implementation and left some space for people to prepare for what is to come.
From Monday August 23 to the second week of September 2021, residents should ensure that they are taking or have taken at least one dose of the vaccine. Only those who respect this deadline and have proof of a vaccination record will be authorized to access places of worship, event centers and receptions. It is therefore not one of those public policies designed to start with immediate effect and automatic speed.
It is only from mid-September 2021 that the bank will be added to the list of services that unvaccinated people cannot physically access. This suggests that those who fail or cannot get vaccinated within the stipulated period will be limited to banking services through different digital platforms. This is to ensure that these people do not infect others who have diligently performed their civic duty.
The operation to be vaccinated to help yourself and your neighbor is therefore a laudable policy that deserves the support of the public. However, support can hardly come if people do not know the details of the campaign, especially its benefits and the role that every citizen must play in ensuring a successful implementation.
This is an immediate challenge for Edo’s team of communications officers who had just completed intensive training on the use of communications as a strategic tool for citizen engagement on government policies and reform initiatives. . Fortunately, the government made it easier by allowing it to start with internal communication.
With a mandate given to all government offices to require all their staff to be vaccinated, it shouldn’t be difficult to mobilize the civil service to function as pillars of the operation. Thereafter, the task of stakeholder engagement should follow.
Using the media to sell the program shouldn’t be difficult for the various information officers attached to ministries, parastatals and agencies if they apply the gains of information management and simultaneous messaging. and information articulated during training sessions.
One area that needs to be placed at the center of the design is the need to devote sufficient time to mobilizing rural communities to adopt the program. Those of us who served as resource persons during the training expect mobilizers to remember that a communications strategy that does not have a built-in feedback mechanism would be ineffective. So now is not the time to put together challenges, but the time to effectively bridge the traditional gap between government and people.
We urge Governor Obaseki to translate his covid vaccination initiative into a system that creates strong and healthy competition between different segments of society. It would therefore be fascinating to discover within the public services of the State, the ministry which is able to reach the highest percentage of vaccinated employees.
This should be extended to departments and agencies to cover the official domain. At the broader societal level, it would also be interesting to also identify the best area of local government, which immediately converts council presidents into operation flagships to get vaccinated. Each of the best segments is expected to be recognized by the Governor through an award category for outstanding performance.
While recommending the Edo Arrangements to other state governments, we urge them to note that it is not enough to complain about public apathy or the reluctance of many segments of society to be part of politics. government. The necessary inspiration must be provided by the government through the mobilization of the people to claim ownership of public policies.
All government projects are designed for the good of the people. Consequently, the people must be at the forefront of governance by stimulating their participation in all public programs. The government must strive to always lead and be forward-looking to prevent all manner of societal challenges, including health issues, bearing in mind the appeal of this column from last week that the primary objective of government is the safety and well-being of citizens.