Vaccine administration in Africa began over one hundred years ago with the most extensive public health programmes taking place during colonial rule. With the backing of colonial propaganda, these mass campaigns were mostly driven by African personnel and produced effective results.
One hundred years on, the topic of vaccination in Africa is burdened by low confidence, poor perception and gross misinformation. Recent studies indicate that while vaccine confidence is rising in Africa, deep rooted hesitancy exists due in some parts to, mistrust of health workers and the Government as well as high exposure to misinformation. Not having vaccinated friends, or having anti-vaccine religious leaders and religious beliefs, are the greatest drivers of vaccine hesitancy.
Against this backdrop, Niyel, an advocacy, campaigns and public affairs group has been a vigorous participant in the just ended African Vaccination Week (AVW) which took place from 24 – 30 April 2022 and was led and coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for Africa. The goal of the week was to strengthen immunisation programmes in Africa by increasing awareness of the need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Valerie Traore, Founder and Executive Director of Niyel says, “Life expectancy in Africa has doubled over the past 70 years despite the ravages of the AIDS epidemic, malaria and cholera. This increase in human life span can be attributed to three critical breakthroughs – vaccines, germ theory and antibiotics. The success of these medical interventions has not just been the pure medical genius of these discoveries, but the ability to embrace new information, new forms of persuasion, new lifestyle changes and ultimately new social movements and norms.”
Vaccines are a proven low-cost and effective preventive health strategy. Routine childhood immunization protect children from death and disability caused by a wide range of diseases making vaccination on e of the greatest advances in modern medicine. However, for Africa to fully benefit, it is necessary to build confidence in vaccines and we intend to achieve this through multiple awareness campaigns with high-reach, respectable influencers in Africa,” says Traore.
To this end and to attain its goal of engaging one million people in conversations on routine immunisation and vaccine confidence, Niyel developed a series of 15-minutes shows featuring two of Africa’s greatest humorists in conversation with doctors and other health care workers. The series produced in video and audio formats are available globally on all podcast platforms as well as on youtube, in addition to airing on television and radios in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and DRC. “Hello Doc” as the show is called, is hosted by Nigerian Frank Donga in English and Burkinabè Philomaine Nanema in French. In the six part series, each host gets to ask doctors all the things they have ever wanted to ask and never got the chance to. “We touched on topics I often hear discussed on the streets, and which sometimes even bring out fights because it can be such a sensitive and personal issue.” says Philo of her experience hosting the show. “We were able to speak about it all, without fear of judgement. Most of all, I was able to be my full, open, crazy self.” Dr. Anire Chima-Oduko, a Public Health Physician and guest on the English show with Frank Donga, says: “I was glad to be part of a program that will empower people with knowledge that can transform their health and lives for good.” At a regional level, Niyel continues to drive policy change, behavioural norms and public perception around vaccinations on the continent. By strategically addressing the greatest drivers of vaccine confidence – namely vaccinated friends, family and religious leaders who positively endorse vaccination, Niyel believes issues of mistrust and hesitancy can be overcome. “From smallpox variolation in 1796, to the introduction of pasteurized milk, chlorinated water, penicillin, and other antibiotics, and recently the ebola and malaria vaccines, history has shown that quality of life can be preserved and improved when public confidence in medical breakthroughs is high, and the necessary associated social changes is understood and embraced. We encourage everyone to tune into our podcast. You will laugh, you will learn but most importantly, it will help you make better health decisions,” concluded Traore.
Distributed by African Media Agency on behalf of Niyel.