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CHRISTOPHER TUSIIME: For people to embrace vaccination, we need effective Behaviour Change Communication

Christopher Tusiime is a concerned citizen (PHOTO /Courtesy)

I have been saying this and I will repeat it: there is a serious information gap on Covid-19 vaccines and stakeholders should pull up their socks.

Some stories have been published by the local and international media on the side effects of vaccines, how different people can react to vaccines differently and how no one should be vaccinated before testing for Covid-19.

Shockingly, some countries have ignored these important details. Actors at different fronts have also jumped to the bandwagon of putting exceedingly much efforts towards calling for vaccination only without saying anything about the above important details. In fact, we have reached a point where people are being forced to take the jabs. I think this is unfortunate.

Truth is we all need life and to live as long as possible. So, it is important to explain to people the good and bad side of anything including vaccines, so that people can make informed decisions.

I am sure most of us have heard about people developing side effects of vaccinations, ranging from mild to severe. The most talked about has been blood clots. In ourcountry here, the fresh story is that of the Busitema University final year (5th year) medical student, Rosette Kyarikunda, who reportedly developed severe complications like multiple organ failures after taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

Whereas there is no hard proof at hand to show that the complications are as a result of the AstraZeneca jab that she had got on August 17, a section of the public is already suspecting that the effects could have been as a result of the vaccine. That is the unfortunate side of the story.

Also, Ministry of Health, since yesterday, has not come up to say anything about that incident. Incidents of the same nature have been happening and they have always been received with defeaning silence! That’s a weakness of the side of the ministry. There is need to embrace proactive and not reactive communication strategy.

I am thinking that if the public had been informed, accurately, about everything to do with vaccines, attributing sudden deaths after vaccination to vaccines would be so minimal or even non-existent.

Then there is also a serious problem in our societies today; the problem of “Kwitaita abantu” or gagging those who ask or question certain things about Covid-19 or its vaccines. People who ask or question are branded as belonging to the anti-vaccination group, as anti-government, as opposition, as less educated, as less exposed and, at times, as people doubting the existence of Covid-19.

I say that all those are not true.

Ignoring people who seek information is a deadly option. In most cases, people will think information is being deliberately hidden for a reason and they will not change their behaviour. Remember, our goal now should be achieving behaviour change; driving those doubting vaccination out of their homes to the vaccination points without hesitation. But we are not doing that. Instead, some companies are giving their staff two options: get the jabs or leave the job.

Therefore, I am urging the Ministry of Health and all the stakeholders to embrace effective Behavioural Change Communication. People need the right information, no matter how bad it is. Concealing this information should not be an option. Threatening people to vaccinate is not a cue to action. Actually, it could be a cue to inaction.

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