The Ghana Health Service (GHS) is stepping up efforts to address the increasing misinformation and rumours about COVID-19 vaccines and the general management of the pandemic in Ghana.
The spread of misinformation, according to the GHS, is becoming a public health challenge, contributing to non-adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols and hesitance to vaccination among the general public.
As part of the strategies to minimise the impact of false information on the public, the Service has been training its Health Promotion Officers (HPOs) and selected journalists on how to track rumours and respond to them appropriately in the fight against COVID-19.
One such training has been held for 40 participants, including 20 HPOs and 20 journalists, in the Ashanti Region by the Health Promotion Division of the GHS.
The training, which was supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sought to equip the participants with the needed skills to counter the misinformation in the system.
Madam Bridget Anim, the Deputy Director of Health Promotion, said misinformation and fake news were one of the major challenges for the management of COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.
She said as health communicators, HPOs had a role to play in responding timely to rumours, misinformation and false information to get the people along with the response plans being rolled out by GHS to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
“Our role as risk communicators is to ensure that we contribute to the overall containment of this emergency that we find ourselves in,” she implored the participants.
She said the pandemic was still raging and that the main challenge to health communicators was misinformation, adding that communicating public safety measures during the period was critical to the containment of the pandemic.
The Deputy Director was optimistic that the training would prepare the participants to be ahead of those perpetrating falsehoods, especially on social media and urged them to take a keen interest in the training to achieve the desired results.
Mr Joel Abekuliya, Coordinator for Risk Communication at the Health Promotion Division, said fake news had the potential of eroding the gains made in terms of getting the people to understand that COVID-19 was real and adherence to the safety protocols.
He said building the capacities of the participants to address misinformation about COVID-19 was very important, especially when plans were underway to roll out mass vaccination across the country.
“After this training, we expect the journalist to be abreast with the steps that are involved in addressing rumours and misinformation in the public such that they would be able to verify information from credible sources before putting them out,” he observed.