The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the ministry of health have pleaded with churches to adhere to Covid-19 measures to restrict the spread of the virus as well as to encourage members to get vaccinated.
WHO representative in Namibia, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said Covid-19 vaccines saved millions of lives, adding the religious community needs to partner with the government to help promote the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine as a life-saving measure.
Sagoe-Moses made the remarks at a consultative meeting with religious leaders on Covid-19 vaccines held in the capital this week.
“Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences – the immune system – to recognise and fight off the viruses they target. After vaccination, if the body is later exposed to the virus, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness and thus reduce severity, hospitalisation and death,” he explained.
He said the church is a critical partner and that health officials count on religious leaders to ensure measures are adhered to and that the congregants are well informed about the vaccination campaign.
“I would like to call upon the church and other religious groups to help implement the basic preventive public health measures that can make a difference on our health system and society as a whole. The measures are to enforce wearing masks at each church gathering; ensure a distance of at least one metre in the congregation; make hand washing or hand sanitisers available at every gathering, ensure ventilation throughout the church meeting and adhere to the limited number of persons allowed per gathering,” he reminded the church leaders.
The WHO representative further urged church leaders to address the disinformation and misinformation with relevant scientific information, saying this should be done by all citizens.
Speaking at the same event, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the development, deployment and uptake of Covid-19 vaccines have been sucked into the tornado of misinformation, fuelled by the ease and ubiquitous access to social media.
Shangula further added that the incorrect information is the most damaging effect on ongoing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, here in Namibia and elsewhere around the world.
“As a result, lives that could have been saved were lost. Suffering that could have been averted, proliferated with devastating effect for families and communities,” he emphasised. The health minister said the messages that are critical and aimed at discrediting vaccines, their safety effectiveness, that cast vaccination in a negative light increased more than two-fold compared to pre-Covid-19 levels.
“These messages containing and spreading vaccine misinformation have been viewed and shared billions of times by the public all over the world, and Namibia is no exception,” he specified.
“I urge all community leaders, spiritual leaders as well as elected and traditional leaders to spread the correct messages about the vaccination campaigns as having been established through proper medical and scientific procedures which the Ministry of Health and Social Services strictly follows. As we continue to state, our national Covid-19 preparedness and response is informed by science and we will never do anything to cause harm to the Namibian people,” said Shangula. The pandemic has claimed over 830 lives, with over 55 500 infections in Namibia.