Rugby player Will Genia joins regional health experts to call for dissemination of misinformation about Covid-19 and to press for vaccine uptake across the Pacific
PNG-born rugby champion and UNICEF Ambassador, Will Genia, has joined health experts from the World Bank and Marshall Islands health sectors on the latest episode of the Pacific Vosa podcast to discuss the Covid-19 vaccine and the need to combat misinformation across the Pacific and Papua New Guinea.
In the episode, host Arieta Rika spoke to Genia, along with Dr Edith Kariko from the World Bank PNG, and Francyne Wase-Jacklick from the Marshall Islands to discuss vaccine collection and the spread of misinformation around Covid-19 and vaccines. Guests also discussed urgent steps to encourage community members to get vaccinated, with vaccines starting to be given in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and elsewhere.
In a new episode Will Genia, insisted that fighting misinformation is the key.
“Obviously now with all that is improving in Papua New Guinea, we have to take this seriously and get rid of misinformation and misunderstanding around vaccines,” Genia said.
Genia, whose brother in Port Moresby recently contracted COVID-19, focuses on the complexities of fighting misinformation in Papua New Guinea: “It’s very difficult to do with the language barrier regarding how many languages we have in our country. The nature of the country with communal life and lack of resources; it’s pretty tough unless the individual takes it seriously. “
Dr. Edith Kariko, Senior Health Specialist for the World Bank in PNG, said that while all new vaccines naturally carry some degree of uncertainty, one should remain focused on communities and families when considering whether to get vaccinated. “Of course, with every new thing comes a degree of nervousness, but I would encourage everyone to think about protecting not only themselves, but also their families when they make this decision.”
On the issue of significant misinformation and conspiracy theories related to Covid-19 being shared in PNG and the wider region, Dr. Kariko points out the importance of ensuring the right information is conveyed in a simple and effective manner to PNG rural audiences. “As a public health specialist, I think the facts have to be interpreted for everyone’s consumption. How we receive information needs to be made strategies and scientific facts must be conveyed in a simple manner. Strategies for targeted vaccine messages in rural and remote areas also need to carefully consider the cultural relevance of these messages.
Francyne Wase-Jacklick, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Health Planning, Policy Preparedness & Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health & Human Services in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is one of the country’s first recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Ms Wase-Jacklick highlighted the initial containment of COVID-19 on Marshall Island and the country’s successful vaccine launch through a clear and targeted message. “Through a very strict repatriation protocol, we can protect the transmission of Covid from the community.
“We were also able to achieve a high acceptance rate of the vaccine here at RMI … at first there was uncertainty but through communication and risk information that constantly went out to the public – press releases and text messages – and using every outlet we had to share information, “The vaccination program has been a success.
However, Wase-Jacklick points out that this requires multiple people to play their part in sharing information and fighting misinformation. “I think this has a lot to do with leadership not only from the government, but also from community leaders and frontline workers.
“My hope is that RMI can be an example, sharing what works … we can become a model for our public health interventions and we can share with others. Maybe [other
Pacific Island countries] can adjust what we do here, “added Wase-Jacklick.
That Your Podcast celebrates the voices of the Pacific and Papua New Guinea and discusses the future of the Pacific region. The series is hosted by Fiji-born Arieta Rika and produced by Good Will Media with World Bank support in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. This episode was done in collaboration with Contains This – a podcast produced for the Australian Government’s Center for Indo-Pacific Health Security covering the future of global health.