Hadja Matenin Bakayoko | May 15, 2022
The Ministry of Public Hygiene in Côte d’Ivoire started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in March 2021 with the arrival of the first doses of the vaccine. By December 7, 2021, 4,718,000 doses had been administered. Today the effort continues, and the communication service of the Ministry of Health has requested the help of radio stations.
Radio can help the government reach many people with good information. The hope is that, as radio stations transmit more good information about the COVID-19 vaccines, more people will decide to get vaccinated, and the government can achieve its objective of vaccinating the entire population.
Several of Farm Radio’s radio partners in Cote d’Ivoire have joined this effort, ensuring that information about the COVID-19 vaccines reaches rural people as well.
Radio Média + CI Bouaké is one of the radio stations involved in this campaign. The station devotes 30 minutes to a program called “Mag COVID” every Thursday morning. Eunice Cole is the journalist host. When planning an episode, she chooses a theme and then organizes pre-recorded interviews with health specialists. One recent theme was “prejudices about COVID-19 vaccines.” On the day of the show, she plays the recordings of the health experts, and then invites listeners to call-in to discuss what they heard.
Sylviana Fofana is another presenter and journalist at Radio Média + CI Bouaké. She says that false information concerning the COVID-19 vaccines has been circulating on social networks and this negatively influences attitudes towards the vaccines. Ms. Fofana says this is a major obstacle which prevents many people from getting vaccinated.
For this reason, the Red Cross, in collaboration with a local committee in Bouaké, decided to conduct an awareness campaign to support the government’s vaccination campaign. The Red Cross also partnered with Radio Média + CI Bouaké to increase the transmission of information about the vaccine throughout the city. The Red Cross now regularly provides experts to participate in the “Mag COVID” program.
Before organizing a program, the host of Radio Média + CI Bouaké conducts vox pops so the program includes the voices of regular people. In each episode, the host discusses listeners’ questions and concerns with health specialists. Ms. Fofana says that, over time, people’s opinions have changed so that more people want to receive the vaccine. She says the increased interest stems from the fact that people in Bouaké place great trust in the Red Cross, which always supports them during emergencies. So if Red Cross health workers believe that the vaccine is the best remedy to fight the virus, it is likely that people will follow this advice.
Today, many listeners contact the Red Cross and Radio Média + CI Bouaké to thank them for providing a service that has improved everyone’s health. Information about the benefits of the vaccine is beginning to be widely known in the city.
But even with the support of the government campaign, it is not easy to produce radio programs on COVID-19. In particular, it is not always possible to have specialists in the studio during the program to answer questions from the public. Instead, the station often has to settle for pre-recorded interviews. Many radio stations are also facing the increased costs of conducting more programming than usual.
While there has been much progress in encouraging people to get vaccinated, Ms. Fofana and Ms. Cole say that myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccines still exist. Listeners continue to tell them that the vaccine is a “chip injection into the body,” or that “until they see authorities or health workers get vaccinated, they will not do it.” Some also refuse to believe announcements about deaths or illness linked to COVID-19 because, according to them, “they have never really seen COVID patients.”
But Radio Média + CI Bouaké also receives positive feedback from its audience. Some listeners trust the work of the station because, even with the government campaign, it is not easy to produce the programs on COVID-19. Despite the challenges, this radio team and others are continuing to raise awareness in Bouaké to fight against all forms of misinformation about COVID-19.
Photo: Eunice Colle in studio. Photo courtesy of Radio Media + CI Bouaké.