Sarah Adongo is a broadcaster at Mega FM Gulu, a community station that reaches 4.5 million listeners in northern Uganda and beyond. Mega FM was initially established to achieve peace building in northern Uganda. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the station turned its attention to another cause: educating listeners about COVID-19 and encouraging them to get vaccinated.
To do so, the station participated in Farm Radio International’s vaccine confidence campaign, broadcasting programs Monday to Friday from July to September 2022.
Ms. Adongo says, “At Mega FM, the campaign was incorporated into our station’s programming.”
The campaign aired in every timeslot and was handled by the presenters of each show.
Ms. Adongo explains, “This was to ensure the information reaches everyone, regardless of their busy schedules.”
Over this four-month period, Mega FM ran a variety of types of programs, including live talk shows, radio spots, and call-ins, many featuring experts.
Ms. Adongo says: “Most of the guests were very positive and cooperative when they were approached to appear on live talk shows, studio recordings, field recordings, or interviews. The people we reached out to in the community, on the streets, and in the markets were so receptive and positive about [the idea of] COVID-19 vaccination.”
The station also promoted a beep-to-vote number in each of its programs to encourage interactions with listeners.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Ms. Adongo says she ran into challenges with some religious leaders who did not want anything to do with COVID-19 vaccination. But she also helped some religious leaders decide to get vaccinated. These leaders were then willing to encourage their congregations to receive the vaccine as well. Some even invited health workers to their churches to talk about COVID-19 vaccines.
Ms. Adongo says: “Most of the community members we were able to interact with on air, in the field, and in social gatherings appreciated the vaccine confidence campaign and COVID-19 vaccination as giving hope … to live normal lives again.”
Many who had not wanted to get vaccinated because of misinformation and myths said that the vaccine confidence campaign helped them decide to get their first doses. Some even said that the campaign encouraged them to speak to others about ignoring false rumours and getting vaccinated.
Ms. Adongo says that many listeners expressed their thanks to the health workers and counsellors that helped them through losing their livelihoods and loved ones, as well as helped them overcome the fear, stigma, and misinformation around lockdowns.
Ms. Adongo notes that health workers appreciated the vaccine confidence campaign too. She says the campaign complemented health workers’ efforts to spread awareness and increase support for the vaccine.
In addition, Ms. Adongo says that the campaign helped remind listeners about the importance of prevention. She explains, “People were starting to forget about [preventive measures] as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
Ms. Adongo expresses heartfelt appreciation for everyone that participated, supported, and listened to the Mega FM programs, and all those who helped make the vaccine confidence campaign a success.
She concludes: “I would like to thank in a special way Farm Radio International for empowering me as a broadcaster and for collaborating with Mega FM Gulu to produce and effectively air the vaccine confidence campaign. And a big thank you to Global Affairs Canada for enabling us to run this campaign that boosted confidence in our community in taking COVID-19 vaccines.”
Photo: A broadcaster in-studio at Mega FM Gulu. Credit: Mega FM Gulu.