I am delighted that we are all gathered here today to witness and celebrate this important event, representing yet another milestone of the continued partnership between the United States and the Government of Namibia in the fight against COVID-19.
The United States has committed over US$20 million – or more than N$350 million – in support of the national COVID emergency response with the aim to reduce the impact of COVID-19 infection, and to encourage Namibians to get vaccinated to protect themselves from hospitalization or death caused by this dreadful virus.
These efforts include the analysis of social media content and countering fake news around the pandemic as well as supporting efforts to update the Ministry of Health and Social Services website to ensure that the public has access to accurate information produced by the Namibian Government about COVID-19.
Ladies and gentlemen;
Although Namibia’s infection numbers are currently low, COVID-19 has not disappeared. New variations and future waves cannot be ruled out. We need to be prepared as a nation and as individuals – and science tells us that the best prepared are those who are vaccinated.
With just over 28% of the population vaccinated in Namibia, we have a long way to go to get to the 70% vaccination rate recommended by the World Health Organization.
The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, also supports the Ministry’s initiative of honoring local journalists who raised awareness about COVID-19 vaccines, as a token of appreciation towards their support in the fight against the pandemic.
These journalists have played and continue to play a crucial role in reporting facts around the vaccines and keeping COVID-19 coverage on top of their agenda.
The COVID-19 social media campaign, which we are launching today, is aimed at changing hesitant people’s sentiment around the vaccines by providing accurate medical information, so more Namibians are encouraged to get the potentially lifesaving shot.
The campaign also provides valuable insights into the world of social media by obtaining in-depth analyses of messages and discussions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This helps us to better understand pertinent safety and efficacy concerns, specifically, the issue of misinformation and conspiracy theories around COVID-19.
The campaign is being conducted at an individual level, through opinion leaders in the social media domain who can drive the authentic, relatable, and meaningful peer-to-peer conversation on their platforms. They communicate in their own languages and with experiences similar to their peers’ to better connect and share content with followers and the community at large.
This approach is uniquely capable of engaging people and adapting content in real-time to ensure it is linguistically, culturally, and demographically relevant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, has long supported the Ministry’s risk communications and USAID, through its RISE project, has provided additional support.
The updated website is a key communication platform providing reliable public information, particularly valuable during health crises.
The MoHSS website is linked to the social media campaign to provide a reliable source of accurate COVID-19 information.
As I conclude, I would like to encourage our journalists to continue promoting and raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccines. COVID vaccines work and are safe! They protect you and your loved ones!
Last but not least, I would like to thank the Ministry of Health and Social Services for their continued leadership and for the achievements we have reached together.