Vaccine Offers Hope for Addressing COVID-19 Pandemic Stigma

Vaccine Offers Hope for Addressing COVID-19 Pandemic Stigma

From the outset of the pandemic, there has been stigmatization of those who contract COVID-19, even though the virus does not discriminate – it’s an equal opportunity offender.

In 2020, during the pandemic, at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a man who attended the burial ceremony of a top aide to the President was filmed while taking off his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) just by the roadside shortly after the burial.

Vaccine Offers Hope for Addressing COVID-19 Pandemic Stigma

The footage went viral and raised tensions among already tensed Abuja residents and Nigerian citizens at large. It was a time when contracting COVID-19 was perceived as an automatic death sentence.

In Cameroon, the second person to test positive for COVID-19 was expelled by his landlord.

I remember seeing a sketch on social media about a young lady living in the West who surprised her family in Africa and spent the holiday with them.

However, upon arrival, her family told her to return to the West because they didn’t want to risk becoming infected with COVID-19. The dramatized sketch was comical, but the reality of those who experience stigma is not funny.

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The consequences of the stigmatization have been real: xenophobia, rejection, isolation, and mental distress. Even careers have been compromised.

A 20-year-old Senegalese nurse who came into contact with a Covid-19 patient was confined to her room and ostracised from her neighbourhood.

Messages circulated on social media with her full name and address. Word spread that she had contracted the virus by having sexual encounters with white people–this although she put her life on the line caring for ill patients.

The media – and social media in particular – have helped to spread misinformation, in the process exacerbating the situation. Add confusion, anxiety and fear to the mix and the result is fuel for harmful stereotypes and racism.

As the pandemic moves into the endemic stage, the stigma, while nuanced, continues to exist, threatening our shared values. The best way to date to put an end to this ongoing health crisis and preserve societal cohesion remains the vaccine.



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