Promoting COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Among the Media: The Story of a Radio Station in Oyo State

Radio news cast

By: Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria Staff

As the Head of News at Solutions FM, a radio station in Oyo State, Nigeria, Dapo Okunubi heard many rumors about COVID-19 vaccines, including of recipients falling sick for many days after vaccination or having a genetic mutation. Fueled by these stories and his fear of injections, Dapo refused to get vaccinated because he feared it would affect his very demanding work as a broadcaster. As such, the 32-year-old, who has to be at work every day, kept putting off receiving a vaccine. He used the convenient excuse of long waiting times to get vaccinated at the Primary Health Centers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many deaths, and approved vaccines are an effective way to mitigate its effect. Breakthrough ACTION, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s flagship global social and behavior change project, is working to support the Government of Nigeria in ramping up vaccination uptake. Breakthrough ACTION staff in Nigeria (Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria) conduct orientation for media personnel across radio, print, and television as these personnel are the first and predominant source of information to the public. This is one of the risk communication and community engagement approaches used by Breakthrough ACTION.

Dapo attended one of these meetings in January 2022, organized by Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria in collaboration with the Oyo State Primary Health Care and Development Agency (SPHCDA) in Oyo state. Encouraged by personal testimonies of those who had been vaccinated; improved knowledge about the vaccines; and the dispelling of rumors, myths and misconceptions, Dapo and six others took their first dose of the vaccine provided by the SPHCDA at the meeting.

Before collecting my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, I thought it was going to be very painful and I would be drowsy, but the only thing I experienced was a little swelling on my arms and nothing serious. The media orientation answered a lot of questions I had concerning vaccination. I am happy I got an opportunity to collect my first dose of the vaccine at the venue.

~ Dapo Okunubi

Feeling confident about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine after taking his first dose, Dapo requested Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria and the SPHCDA to hold a mass vaccination activty at Solutions FM for staff members and residents of Oke-Ado and Oke-Bola, where the radio station is situated. This led to 23 staff and 132 residents receiving their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines in January 2022, while 252 persons were vaccinated in follow exercise in February 2022. As a result of this initiative, a total of 407 people from Solutions FM, Oke-Ado and Oke-Bola areas in Ibadan, Oyo State, have received COVID-19 vaccine injections, some receiving their first dose and others a second dose. Dapo and his colleagues are also championing the campaign for COVID-19 vaccination through developing media content and working with the SPHCDA to improve audience understanding and awareness of the vaccines.

State Primary Health Care Board team vaccinating community members during the COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Flag-off Ceremony at Alesinloye Market, Oyo State

Between November 2021 and February 2022, Breakthrough ACTION has directly reached 578,803 persons, including media personnel with COVID-19 messages across seven states (the Federal Capital Territory, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Sokoto, Bayelsa, and Kano). More than half of the persons reached (362,865) have also taken the COVID-19 vaccine within that period.