By Andy Esiet, Calabar
Alarmed by the high number of COVID-19 related deaths in children, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), partnering the Federal Government will soon commence the immunisation of children in Nigeria.
The UNICEF Health Specialist and Officer in charge of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Olusoji Akinleye dropped this hint at a recent One Day Media Executive Meeting in partnership with Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State on Child Rights Influenced Reporting on Covid-19 Pandemic in Enugu.
Akinleye who lamented that so many children have died from COVID-19 virus said, “in the next few months, Nigeria will start administering the vaccine to children under 12-years of age”.
On why the children’s vaccine was coming late, he said they are not getting the vaccines because a lot of processes are involved before any drug would be administered to children but however called on parents to ensure that their children are safe and protected by adhering to the safety protocols.
The health Specialist said though considerable progress has been made by the federal government, UNICEF and other development agencies to ensure the spread of the pandemic is brought under control through the importation and accessibility of vaccines, they are still faced with serious challenges in the areas of public hesitancy, unwillingness and conspiracies against the COVID-19 vaccines.
In this regards, Akinyele said, “we recognize the partnership in promoting and highlighting the right of every child to life , the very first right that every human being is supposed to have is the right to life, we recognized the fact that the media has always supported the effort of government and partners including UNICEF in promoting right to health.
“UNICEF looks forward to more robust collaboration with media and an expected upward trend in the promotion of health and hygiene practices by media in Nigeria by daily communication to the public of protocols enforced by the government to prevent spread of COVID-19.”
One of the resource persons, from Community Medicine Department, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Dr. Obasi Chikezie, presented papers on “COVID-19: Vaccination as a lifesaver. The Role of Mass Media in Accurately Reporting Child Rights Influenced Information, to Curtail the Spread of COVID-19”, equally expressed concern over the low coverage of the vaccines in Nigeria, saying “about 80 percent of people died of not knowing that they had COVID-19, while 20 percent that survived had severe cases”.
Dr. Chikezie said the role of the media in COVID-19 vaccine is to remind everyone of the benefits by researching and investigating information that are against the use of the vaccine.
On her part, UNICEF Communication Officer, Dr. Ijeoma Onuoha-Igwe also urged media practitioners to debunk rumours against the COVID-19 vaccines but rather use their medium to speak positively on it.
She said, “use your outlets to emphasise on the need to take the vaccine and also the need to speak well about the vaccines, try to debunk rumours based on the knowledge you will gather”.
Earlier, the Director General, Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State, Umuahia, Sir Anyaso Anyaso, commended UNICEF for the role in championing the cause for women and children in the society saying, the gathering was to harness both the media and UNICEF collective roles in championing the welfare of women and children especially in the COVID-19 pandemic era