Journalists urged to help scale up Covid-19 vaccine uptake


Journalists in the country have been encouraged to embrace science health reporting so as to help increase Covid-19 vaccine uptake especially among pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.

The call was made on Friday 24th March, 2023 during a media science cafe that was held in Blantyre, organised by the Journalists Association Against Aids. (JournAIDS).

Speaking during the media science cafe, Dingaan Mithi who is JournAIDS Programs Manager, stressed out that journalists have a crucial role to play in reducing hesitancy of Covid-19 vaccine uptake especially in pregnant women and in people with underlying health conditions.

Mithi pointed out that media science cafe seeks to tackle the infodemic on the Covid-19 vaccine and deliver accurate messages to the public through the media on the benefits and exposing the truth about the vaccine and help reduce vaccine hesitancy.

“The aim of media science cafe program is to create a space of journalists here in Malawi to report on science issues in the context of science health and the focus of this media science cafe is the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So we came here to stress the point that journalists have a very huge role to play in order to raise more awareness in scaling up the uptake of Covid-19 vaccine and also to help reduce vaccine hesitancy in people with underlying health conditions,” said Mithi.

Mithi further said they want to make sure that the media in Malawi have got the expertise and capacity in order to enhance science communication so as to collaborate and ensure that media coverage around Covid-19 issues are scaled up.

He continued to say if journalists can extensively generate public health science stories that educate the public especially on the importance of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy will be history.

He however noted that Malawian journalists lack equipment and technical knowledge when it comes to science communication, a challenge which he said the media science cafe program is here to address.

“Malawi has the potential to build a calibre of journalists who can report on different scientific issues but our journalists in Malawi lack equipment, capacity and technical expertise, so the media science cafe is coming in as an opportunity to bridge that information gap,” he added.

In November last year, JournAIDS launched the media science cafe program which is supported by AVAC with a small grant from Rockefeller Foundation.

During the media science café on Friday, Dr Steve Kateta from Wellcome Trust, made a presentation on Protecting pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions from Covid-19 through vaccination.

Dr Kateta said researchers noted that unvaccinated pregnant people are more likely to get severe Covid-19, and that prenatal and postnatal care were disrupted during the early part of the pandemic.

In the other hand, Dorothy Mtwana from Coalition of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (COWLHA) encouraged people from her group to get vaccinated saying scientists established that the vaccine has no side effects on them.

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