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Big blow for vaccination drive



THE announcement by the government last week that it was investigating five deaths linked to Covid-19 vaccinations has triggered fresh fears over the whole vaccination programme. While we understand the government’s quest for transparency, the packaging of the message, coming a week after the reported deaths, has done immense damage to the credibility of the whole vaccination agenda. The government’s response was not only late but was badly packaged. By the time it issued its statement, Lesotho was already on fire, thanks to social media. This happened at a time when the government was already battling an aggressive misinformation campaign on social media by vaccine sceptics. The reported deaths of the five might have upended the government’s aggressive push to get more Basotho vaccinated. That was unfortunate. Of course, trusted agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) have gone to great lengths to reassure people that vaccines are safe. We would like to believe them too. Admittedly, however, the events of last week will likely puncture big holes in that narrative. It will no doubt hurt the vaccination programme in Lesotho. We need a speedy investigation by the government and the WHO to dispel the people’s genuine fears about vaccines if they are to undo the damage. The vaccination programme had picked up momentum with more Basotho taking the shots. But the reported deaths have planted fears among the general populace. This now must be managed. The government is battling a trust deficit. Few trust politicians who they generally view as a dishonest bunch. That is precisely why there is still resistance about the whole vaccination programme. To address this trust deficit, politicians must take a back seat on the vaccination drive. Instead of putting politicians in front, the government could perhaps rope in trusted faith leaders to drive the agenda and persuade the people to take the jab. They could also rope in traditional leaders such as chiefs to convince their people about the efficacy of the vaccines. The government must not underestimate the power of social media in poking holes in the vaccination drive. There is a lot of unverified information on social media that is doing the rounds. Instead of sitting back and surrender, the government through the Ministry of Health must aggressively counter such information. We have seen very little of that fightback on social media. We understand that only when we have vaccinated enough Basotho will things return to normal in this country. We have seen this happening in the West as economies re-opened and life slowly returned to normal. We, at thepost, believe in the science of vaccination and will do all we can to encourage Basotho to get the jab. Vaccines will be our only route back to a normal society again. Thanks to donor agencies and the government, Lesotho received hundreds of thousands of vaccines. It becomes a different ball game when you now have the vaccines but people resist to get the jab because they were fed some conspiracy theory on social media. The government must fine-tune its communication strategy and reassure Basotho that vaccines are safe. It must get the right people in the right places to drive its information campaigns.

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