New waves of flu show benefits of COVID-19 Vaccination DigiRedio 15 September 2023

New waves of flu show benefits of COVID-19 Vaccination

With about half of the year 2023 gone, residents of the counties of Kericho and Bomet, like most other Kenyans, noticed a surge of infections from what appeared to be a particularly virulent flu.

“Ni kama COVID-19 imerudi” (It seems that COVID-19 is back), many were heard saying. What was interesting is that shortly before that, “COVID-19 was a scam” had rented the air. Buffeted by these waves of conflicting to-and-from messages, residents called one of the region’s most popular radio stations to seek clarity. Journalists and the administration of Radio Injili rose to the challenge and embraced the responsibility to disseminate rightful information to smother the myths and misconceptions that otherwise inevitably spring up.

“We launched a campaign to answer the questions arising in the minds of many citizens at the time ”

Moses Kemboi - Radio Injili

We decided that we owed the community a sense of direction. With the support of CBCC, we made the station a centre for information. Experts in COVID-19 matters – government officials, NGO experts – came on air to educate the public and answer questions.” They also spoke of the benefits of getting vaccinated and urged the public to go for it.

So convinced was the station about this that they made the decision to not commercialise the program. “We offered it as a free public service,” Mr Kemboi says. Something else impelled them: a member of staff had tested positive at the peak of the COVID-19 wave and had, additionally, lost her mother to the disease. “So, for the staff, the virus came home, you might say literally. That’s the fact of this thing: it’s a scam or whatever until it pays you a visit.”

The response was excellent. People visited health facilities and designated points to get vaccinated. Listeners asked how to recognise symptoms if they got infected. “The MoH and the CBOs were positive and supportive. The government sent the County Health Director to explore how they could support us. The resulting broadcasts helped to calm down a jittery public and many were convinced to be vaccinated.”

When the region was hit by a wave of debilitating infections with COVID-19-like symptoms, despair was in the air. Memories of the lockdowns and restrictions returned. People reported that their families were sick in the house and everyone was laid low, something that had previously never happened at all. They also began to avoid hospitals, just like they did during the peak of COVID-19, considering them a hotspot. The government was forced to issue a statement clarifying that the infections were just a flu.

As a matter of fact, all the old myths and misconceptions returned. “They said this couldn’t be COVID-19 because it had not been infecting Africans. They questioned if the government’s insistence that this was not COVID-19 could be trusted, among many other issues. However, during the broadcasts, we were fixed on the vaccination and how to take care of oneself and avoid being infected, or if already infected, to survive and make full recovery.”

It worked. Many youth got vaccinated and there were testimonies of people who said they had been vaccinated and came out alright. The MoH vaccination teams went door-to-door and asked if anybody in the households wanted to be vaccinated. They would also stand at church gates and invite anyone not previously vaccinated to get one as they headed to the house of worship. Booster shots were also available for those whom sufficient time had elapsed since their full ose.

Kemboi is convinced that a majority got vaccinated. A small number, some of whom are personally known to him, refused because of the myths and misconceptions. His inexpert view is that when flu and colds hit, those who didn’t get vaccinated suffered more severely from colds than those who had received it. This view has been backed by experts.

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