Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in partnership with UNICEF, today, held a capacity building workshop for Media Professionals and Health Correspondents of North Eastern and Southern States on the current COVID situation in India, the need to bust myths about COVID vaccines & vaccination, and reinforce the importance of COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB). Media Professionals and Health Correspondents of Assam, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, West Bengal, Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh participated in the workshop virtually.
Ms. Arti Ahuja, Additional Secretary, MoHFW addressed the workshop, which was attended by more than 200 Health Journalists and Senior officials of DD News, All India Radio, Press Information Bureau of various States/UTs. She thanked all the media professionals for their sustained efforts in the fight against COVID-19. She said that mediapersons are major influencers of society. They should encourage people to vaccinate and bust myths and fake news. She urged media persons to highlight positive stories and role models so that continuous positive reinforcement can take place. She also highlighted the issue of mental health during COVID and requested media persons to address it through their messaging. Emphasising the need to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour, she said that the second wave is still not over.
Giving a brief snapshot of the COVID strategy adopted by the Government of India, Shri Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry highlighted the issue of Community Mobilization and Behaviour Change Communication. He said that there are three important components of the fight against COVID – Community ownership of COVID Appropriate Behaviour, Evidence Based Reporting and Busting Myths on COVID and vaccination. Highlighting the India specific challenges, he added that the Government of India has followed a proactive, pre-emptive, graded approach for fighting the COVID pandemic.
Giving a detailed picture of efforts and initiatives taken by the Government, he underlined that India achieved a 35.6 times growth in testing facilities with 2,675 testing facilities in the country currently as opposed to only 75 labs pre-lockdown. Total isolation beds (O2 & non-O2) increased to more than 18.12 lakhs as compared to 10,180 before lockdown. ICU beds increased to more than 1.21 lakh as compared to just 2,168 in the initial phases of the pandemic. He said that availability of N-95 and PPE kits increased to more than 14.6 million and 10.2 million respectively. From no manufacturers in March 2020, India now has 1,100 indigenous manufacturers of PPE kits.
Acknowledging media as an important stakeholder for fighting Vaccine Hesitancy, he added that more than 33.5 Crore vaccine doses have been administered in India. He urged media persons to create a Jan Andolan by featuring role-models and community heroes.
Besides various reasons for vaccine hesitancy, which may be local and could vary for different community groups, the workshop highlighted Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI), its management, and the best practices while reporting on AEFI. Various queries of the media persons were also addressed during the workshop.
Senior officials of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of I&B, UNICEF, DD News, PIB, AIR News and Health Journalists from across the country participated in the national workshop.