By: Antoinette Sendolo
The Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL)in collaboration with the Liberia Crusaders for Peace has provided a one day media training for journalists in Liberia aimed at strengthening their reportage on the on-going Ebola vaccine study in the country.
The training workshop which was held at the Grand Royal Hotel brought together several journalists from different media institutions in order to improve the skills of journalists as they go along reporting on the Ebola Vaccines and other health related issues.
The ongoing Ebola vaccine study is intended to identify a safe and effective vaccine in the shortest possible time to scale up utilization and coverage to prevent the Ebola Disease Virus which has claimed the lives of several people in West Africa.
According to PREVAIL’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Stephen Kennedy, Liberia is very close to reaching the targeted six hundred persons in the second stage of the Ebola Vaccine trial in the country.
He disclosed that about three hundred ninety six persons have been vaccinated as of February 2 to February 24, 2015 noting that the total of two hundred and four persons have shown interest in taking the vaccine recently something he described as a huge success in the study.
Dr. Kennedy said there is no unusual side effect other than those observed from the first stage of the Vaccine trial which includes Fever, Headache, body pain and joint pain.
He said there has not been any major problem reported from those who have been vaccinated apart from the fever and other minor pains which only last for 24 hours after a person has been vaccinated.
Speaking at the training workshop, the United Nations Mission Emergency
Ebola Response (UNMEER) Media Specialist Liza White said the media has a major role to play in the society noting that the public depends and acts on what is given out by journalists and as such, reporters should verify their information before bringing it out to the public.
She said in a situation like the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country, journalists should properly investigate before sending out information to the public adding that the situation might be calmed or intensified based on what the media reports.
“The public looks up to you (journalists) for information so you have to be careful and objective in your reportage because what you report can be a help to a situation or even be harmful,” Madam White noted.
The UNMEER media specialist urged journalists to respect the rights and privacy of people especially in crisis such as the Ebola outbreak and other health related issues in order to avoid stigmatization and other effects it might have on the person in question.
She stressed also that reporters should be careful with the kind of pictures they publish and also avoid calling the names of Ebola survivors and victims of other circumstances something which she said causes serious stigma for victims and their families.
Also speaking was Ms. Laurie Doepel, a Science Communication Advisor, National Institute of Health who said in order for journalists to effectively report on health issues, they must understand the language of the scientists and other health practitioners to be able to relate to the public.
Laurie Doepel noted that it is important for some journalists to specialize in science communication in order to report excellently on health related issues without putting their audience in a state of fear as the result of what they report.