One of our challenges in Somalia is debunking vaccine myths spread over social media. In a country where the median age is 16 and where 78 percent of the population is under the age of 30, platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook have an incredible amount of influence. Social media has been largely responsible for stoking fears that the vaccine is biological warfare perpetrated by the Chinese or Americans, for example.
These myths are dangerous and a wariness is taking hold in the general population—even some frontline health care workers share the same sentiments. Despite witnessing the pandemic’s devastation firsthand, some still don’t know what to believe.Our teams are working to address this misinformation and chip away at vaccine hesitancy by distributing Somali-translated materials from the WHO, and along with other allied organizations, we have enlisted vaccinated health care providers to share their positive experiences with colleagues.
Religious leaders, especially trusted and well-know imams, are encouraged to spread messages about vaccine safety and efficacy. We are also using radio public service announcements, text campaigns, and disseminating facts at routine health visits to provide trustworthy COVID vaccine information.