Pursuing the COVID-19 story: Nigerian journalists in the frontline

We need to recognize the risks our journalists face in doing their essential work

Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A man walking
16 March 2021

Enugu, 16 March 2021 – When he heard about the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines procured by UNICEF for Nigeria, Mr. Edem Edem, a journalist with the National Post Newspaper in Calabar, Cross River State, knew exactly what he had to do.

“I made up my mind to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccines arrived in my country,” he said. 

As a journalist, I am a frontline worker. I pursue stories about people infected with COVID-19 who are in quarantine centers, hospitals and other areas of confinement - hoping and praying that I don’t contract it myself.

A man being vaccinated
Edem receiving his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

With the rate of COVID-19 infections soaring, journalists continue to face the risk of getting the disease in order to inform the public, and many have paid the highest price. About 127 journalists have died in 31 countries from COVID-19, according to reports compiled by the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign.

“My colleagues have the same fears. Some have contracted the disease, some have not, but the fight against the coronavirus is still on because it is our job to cover it,” said Edem. “We need to recognize the risks our journalists face in doing their essential work, investigating the causes and implications of health conditions such as COVID-19 and policies that impact health.”

A man walking
Edem stepping into the vaccination centre

With UNICEF’s commitment to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are procured and made available to developing countries, Nigeria is among the first countries in Africa to benefit from this initial donation through the COVAX Facility, which is working to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines globally.

Thirty-six Nigerian states have received consignments of over 3.9 million doses, including Cross River with 53,840 doses, which immediately commenced vaccination.

Edem says that some of his colleagues had made up their minds to quickly get vaccinated despite hearing a lot of negative stories about the vaccine.

I became the first frontline journalist to take the vaccine today in Calabar and there is nothing to be afraid of - people should come out and take the vaccine to become immunized.

As the pandemic rages, the danger for journalists is far more widespread than ever before. That is why journalists delivering public service broadcasting have been identified as key workers, along with health workers, those providing essential public services and others who remain regularly exposed.

UNICEF recognizes that millions of people across the globe are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, including many in developing countries, and commits to working with all governments to ensure safe vaccines are delivered to people for increased protection against the disease.

A man standing in front of a gate

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.

The COVAX Facility has been able to secure vaccines thanks to governments, foundations and other donors who contributed to ensuring global distribution of vaccines – including the generous support of the European Commission, countries of the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. For a full list of donors, please see here.