Social media has been much-maligned as a source of misinformation when it comes to vaccines. But for millions of Nigerians it is having the opposite effect, encouraging them to get their jabs.
3 June 2021 – by Eric Dumo
The turning point for Temitope Ojo, a media practitioner based in Lagos, came from social media. Prior to getting the COVID-19 vaccine on 26 March, Ojo had mixed feelings about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
Like many Nigerians, she had heard conflicting stories floating around about possible complications from the vaccine and was undecided. But then a Facebook post changed her mind.
It is an unsolicited but collective campaign by all patriotic Nigerians to help save our country from COVID-19.
“Lying in bed, on the night of 24 March, I was fiddling with my smartphone one last time before I came across images on Facebook shared by some of my colleagues and by celebrities I follow of them being vaccinated. It was quite surprising. These colleagues used to have doubts about the vaccine. This was the turning point for me,” says the 51-year-old Ojo.
Since getting the first dose, Ojo, who is due for her second shot in June, has also made a point of sharing photos of her vaccination experience on her various social media pages to encourage others to embrace the vaccine.
“Several people reached out to me after seeing my post on Facebook that day,” she says. “They told me that they could now trust the vaccine since I had taken it myself. I know more than five people that went to the same place I took the jab to get theirs after seeing my photo," she adds.
Like Ojo, Lagos resident and mother of two Funmi Falobi has used social media to convince people to embrace the vaccine.
“My sister, who is a health worker, sent me photo via WhatsApp of the certificate given to her after receiving the vaccine,” she says. “That convinced me and other family members to take the jab.”
Picking up the mantle from her sister, she adds, “After taking the vaccine, I shared the photo on Facebook, my WhatsApp status and also a UNICEF page on the internet just to encourage more people to trust the medicine.”
Boasting over 123 million internet users – the highest in Africa – it has been estimated that Nigerians spend an average of three and half hours daily on social media networks. While much has been said about how social media is rife with misinformation, there is also ample opportunity to use the space for good. This is exactly what social media-savvy citizens in Nigeria are doing by circulating photos, videos and infographics using Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, amongst other platforms.
Francis Mbonu, an Abuja-based IT expert, says, “We are throwing forward everything we think can persuade people on various social networking platforms to trust the vaccine. It is a collective campaign by all patriotic Nigerians to help save our country from COVID-19. The photos, videos, and even status updates on WhatsApp and Facebook go a long way to erasing doubts.”