The Roundtable discussion between Rivers Media for Health and Religious Stakeholders held on 19 January, 2022 at the Rivers State Primary Healthcare Management Board, Waterlines, Port Harcourt.
The Roundtable discussion centred on the role of religious leaders in increasing COVID-19 vaccinations to achieve the goal of 50 percent coverage of the estimated population of eligible adults for the vaccination in Rivers State before the end of January 2022.
Present were Christian and Muslim leaders as well as the Permanent Secretary RSPHCMB, Dr. Agba Harry, other officers of RSPHCMB, TCi representative and members of Rivers Media for Health.
OBSERVATIONS: Participants present made the following observations:
1.That there is need for continuous awareness creation to educate and enlighten people about the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic in which Nigeria is in the 4th wave.
- The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike was commended for showing good leadership as he was the first to take concrete steps to fight the spread of Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic by closing the borders of the State even before the Federal Government and other States took any action. They prayed him to continue with that zeal in the fight against the pandemic.
- Although the State has the target of vaccinating 50% of the eligible adults in the estimated population of people in the State, less than 500,000 persons have been vaccinated with either the first, second and/or booster doses of both the Astrazeneca and Moderna vaccine since the vaccination exercise started in March 2021.
- Myths, poor behavioural change by key stakeholders, campaign fatigue and ownership by religious leaders were identified as some major challenges of vaccination uptake.
- Demonstration of Covid-19 vaccine acceptance by religious leaders was observed to be a major catalyst in making members of their various congregations accept taking the vaccine, with a significantly higher vaccine acceptance observed among the Muslim faithfuls in the State.
- Continuous awareness creation with testimonials from people who have survived Covid-19 would be effective in dispelling doubts that Covid-19 is a scam and build trust in government’s efforts in checking the pandemic.
Based on various submissions during the discuss at the meeting, the following resolutions were made:
- Religious leaders would continue to sensitise members of their congregations on the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic and encourage them to take the vaccines.
- Religious leaders can invite and/or inform the RSPHCMB to send Covid-19 vaccination teams to their churches/mosques to vaccinate members who have not taken the vaccines.
- Religious leaders should continue to maintain the non- pharmaceutical protocols in preventing the spread of Covid-19 by encouraging wearing of facemasks, physical distancing and handwashing among their congregations.
- More critical stakeholders like traditional rulers, engaging Town criers in the education and sensitization efforts in the rural areas were also suggested
- Efforts targeting the family unit with the right information about Covid-19 was suggested to help dispel the myths and misconceptions they hold about Covid-19 and the vaccination, as that is the fundamental place where decisions are taken to either accept or reject vaccination.
Members of the Communique Drafting Committee