EU supports bilingual campaign to inform local population on COVID-19

Published in Economics
Monday, 27 April 2020 10:44

The EU-supported Akhalkalki Local Action Group (LAG) in Georgia recently started a bilingual online campaign to raise awareness among the non-Georgian speaking population about the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim of the campaign is to inform non-Georgian speakers about the current state of emergency and the health protection measures available.

LAG has disseminated over 10 videos in both Georgian and Armenian through social media. In addition, over 15 bilingual posters have been circulated, containing information from the World Health Organization, the National Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, and the Georgian Government.

Locals are systematically informed about the lockdown and self-isolation rules, protocols for going out, healthcare measures and focal contact points.

The campaign is part of the project ‘Promoting a new rural development approach in Akhalkalaki’. It is implemented under the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD).

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  • UNICEF with the support from USAID/Georgia is organizing the information sessions in Samtskhe-Javakheti region about COVID-19 vaccination
    UNICEF with the support from USAID/Georgia is organizing the information sessions in Samtskhe-Javakheti region about COVID-19 vaccination. UNICEF Representative in Georgia, Ghassan Khalil together with the representatives from National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, and health experts visited Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe.
    The first meeting is happening now with the Orthodox Religious Leaders, to discuss topics such are COVID-19 vaccination, immunization programmes in Georgia and etc. The meeting will end with a discussion.
    Vaccines save millions of lives each year. The development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a huge step forward in our global effort to end the pandemic and to get back to doing more of the things we enjoy with the people we love.
    UNICEF’s work is grounded on empirical data, independent evaluation, rigorous research and thoughtful analysis.
    UNICEF supports and uses research, evaluations and data to determine what works best for children. We draw on sound evidence to create programmes, campaigns and initiatives where they are most needed. Explore our reports, data and research.

     Press Service of the UNICEF Georgia

  • All you need to know about vaccination in the time of COVID-19

    Produced in cooperation with WHO and EUvsDisinfo

    1. 1.       What are the benefits of being vaccinated?

    Today, there are vaccines to protect against at least 20 diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, influenza and measles. Together, these vaccines save the lives of up to 3 million people every year – that’s more than five lives every minute, helping people to grow up and grow old in good health.

    Vaccinations are an integral part of the panoply of healthcare that has vastly extended the length and quality of our lives in the past hundred years. Most of us received several vaccines as children, protecting us against diseases that just a few generations ago killed and crippled thousands. And our elderly and vulnerable populations are vaccinated every year to protect them against annual strains of influenza. We know that vaccinated children do better at school, and their communities benefit economically. Vaccines advance global welfare and are among the most cost-effective means of doing so.

    There are now several vaccines that are in use against COVID-19, and several hundred million vaccine doses have already been administered. These vaccines protect against the disease and its consequences by developing an immune response to the virus. 

    Getting vaccinated will also help protect people around you, because if you are protected from developing severe COVID-19 disease through vaccination, you are less likely to infect someone else – someone like your elderly parents or grandparents, who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or the doctors and nurses on whom we all depend. Exactly how well vaccination will prevent onward transmission is not yet known, however, so it is important to also continue with other prevention measures, like wearing a mask, until everyone around you is also vaccinated.

     

    1. 2.       Are all COVID-19 vaccines safe?

    All vaccines authorised in the EU to prevent COVID-19 undergo a scientific evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and are rigorously monitored to ensure safety. The WHO is working together with the EU and around the world to ensure that the highest safety standards are met for authorised vaccines.

    The EMA has so far approved four vaccines for use in the European Union – those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Three others are currently under review, including the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

    Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines have gone through a rigorous, multi-stage testing process, including large trials that involve tens of thousands of people. These trials are specifically designed to identify any common side effects or other safety concerns.

    It’s true that COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and approved at record speeds, but there has been no compromise on safety – on the contrary, the unprecedented international cooperation and vast amounts of funding have enabled huge clinical trials in real life conditions that usually take much longer to achieve, if feasible at all.

    Once a COVID-19 vaccine is introduced, WHO supports work with vaccine manufacturers, health officials in each country, and other partners, to monitor any safety concerns on an ongoing basis.

    As with all medicines, side effects can occur after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and are usually a sign that the vaccine is working by stimulating the immune system to prepare the body to fight the disease. However, these side effects are transient (24-48 hours), and serious side effects (such as an allergic reaction) are exceedingly rare. The fact is: the risk of the disease by far outweighs the risks of the COVID-19 vaccines.

    You can review COVID-19 vaccines under investigation, evaluation and authorised for use in the EU on the EMA website or find out the latest on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines from the WHO.

     

    1. 3.       How are the EU and WHO helping with vaccination?

    The European Union last year spent more than €1 billionto support the research and development of vaccines and new therapies to cure COVID-19. The new mRNA technology, which has been vital for the rapid development of several vaccines, has been developed in Europe. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in particular has had strong financial support from the EU (BioNTech has received more than €9 million of EU research funding over the past decade, as well as a €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank in 2020).

    Through its advance purchase agreements, the EU has ordered 1.3 billion vaccine doses from BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – significantly more than what it needs to vaccinate its population of 447 million people. The EU intends to share part of these vaccines with its partner countries in parallel to accelerating the EU’s own vaccination plans.

    At the same time, the European Union is one of the biggest supporters of COVAX, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The EU’s Team Europe (which combines resources from the EU, its Member States and European financial institutions) supports COVAX with more than €2.2 billion, including €1 billion from the EU budget. This is a key contribution that is helping COVAX to secure 1.3 billion doses of vaccines for 92 low and middle-income countries, including its Eastern Partners, by the end of 2021.

    COVAX has so far published the following allocations of vaccines for the Eastern Partner countries for the period February to May 2021:

    • Armenia: 124,800 doses of AstraZeneca
    • Azerbaijan: 432,000 doses of AstraZeneca
    • Georgia: 129,600 doses of AstraZeneca and 29,250 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech
    • Moldova: 108,000 doses of AstraZeneca and 24,570 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech
    • Ukraine: 1,776,000 doses of AstraZeneca and 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech

    The first COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility have already arrived in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova. Romania has also shipped vaccines to Moldova through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

    But the vaccines themselves are only half the story. Equally important is the vaccine infrastructure. Since February 2021, the EU and the WHO have been working together in a major effort to support the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination in the six Eastern partner countries. With a total budget of €40 million over three years, this is the largest EU and WHO joint action ever implemented in the European Region.

    Through this programme, the EU and WHO are helping to prepare national infrastructures for the effective receipt and deployment of vaccines. The joint effort includes risk communication and community engagement, support to vaccine supply chain management, vaccination data and safety monitoring, training of health managers and medical staff involved in the vaccination campaign, scheduling of the vaccinations, as well as key logistical support for the delivery and handling of the vaccines and supplies.

     

    1. 4.       Will the COVID-19 vaccine provide long-term protection? When will this all be over?

    Because COVID-19 vaccines have only been developed and deployed over just the past year,  it’s too early to know exactly how long their protection will last. Data from early studies show that immunity persists for several months but the full duration is not yet known, so continued monitoring will be needed.

    If immunity against coronavirus does not last, then it may be necessary to have a vaccine every year, just as we do with the flu vaccine. 

    As for the impact of COVID-19 vaccines on the pandemic, this will depend on several factors, such as how quickly they are delivered, how many people get vaccinated, and the possible development of new variants of the disease.

    To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population will need to be vaccinated, lowering the overall opportunities for the virus able to spread in the whole population. The percentage of people who need to be immune, either through prior infection or vaccination, in order to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease (e.g. 95% for measles and around 80% for polio). The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known. 

    It is also not yet known how well vaccination will prevent transmission of the virus to others who may not be protected.

    Therefore, until vaccination is widely available, we have to continue following public health measures – social distancing, wearing masks in public and good hand-washing hygiene – as these play an important role in breaking the virus transmission chain.

      

    1. 5.       Many of my friends and relatives think it’s all a conspiracy and are suspicious of the vaccine: how can I change their minds?

    It could be a a friend, a loved-one, a colleague or a neighbour. We all know someone who is strongly opposed to vaccination. Often, this fear is driven by belief in anti-vaccine conspiracies, like the untrue but persistent myths that Microsoft is using vaccines to microchip humanity or that vaccines can modify our DNA.

    Unfortunately, the COVID-19 health crisis has provided ample opportunities for the spread of mis- and disinformation, not just in the Eastern partner countries, but all over the world, including in the European Union and the United States.

    Whether deliberately spread to divide people, or driven by genuine concern, false information and conspiracy theories exploit our fears and contribute to existing vaccine hesitancy.

    People may be exposed to misinformation through the media or opinions and rumours spread in person. But increasingly, it is online social networks which fuel the infodemic. By amplifying attention-grabbing posts, social media algorithms actually incentivise the circulation of misinformation and disinformation, allowing false information to spread faster and further than true information.

    In the Eastern Partnership region, one of the key disinformation narratives revolves around the claim that vaccines developed in the West are dangerous. The EUvsDisinfo campaign, the EU’s leading initiative to counter disinformation, is continuously monitoring and analysing the spread and impact of vaccine disinformation in the EaP countries, debunking myths around the narrative that feeds the vaccine war between Russia and the West.

    The EUvsDisinfo initiative has compiled a six-point guide for conversations with vaccine-sceptics to help you along the way with that friend or relative who is distrustful of vaccination. The guide urges you to stay calm, understand, relate, connect with reliable sources, encourage critical thinking, and… know when to stop.

      

    1. 6.       There’s still a way to go on vaccination, so what other support is available in times of COVID-19?

    The European Union has been in the frontline of COVID-19 support from the moment the pandemic struck. To date, more than €1 billion worth of support has been allocated in emergency relief to cover immediate needs, or for assisting national health systems and the social and economic recovery of the region. 

    The EU and the World Health Organization are working together, not only on vaccine supply, but to support the health sector across the six Eastern partner countries through the Solidarity for Health Initiative, supplying medical devices and personal equipment. Over 11 million items of personal protective equipment, 12,000 lab kits, over 1,500 ventilators, oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters, and over 20,000 PCR testing kits have been provided as part of this project.

    The EU is also supporting the most vulnerable groups in society, with investments of more than €11 million. Grants of up to €60,000 are given to civil society organisations through the Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme for projects such as supporting local schools with distance learning, helping women who have lost their jobs, or providing food supplies to the elderly and the disabled. A second programme, COVID-19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability, also works with civil society and independent media, helping them to continue providing access to protection and assistance, especially to the most vulnerable groups, as well as accurate information about the pandemic.

    The EU is also helping business to survive this exceptionally difficult time, working closely with financing institutions in the EU Member States and globally to support small business, the self-employed and others across the region to easily access local currency loans and apply for grants to boost their businesses during and after the crisis, channelling support through the EU4Business initiative. You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support pages on the EU4Business website to find out about support measures for businesses in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

    European financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have been key players in supporting business credit, but they have also invested billions in supporting public health systems, building economic resilience, digitalisation, renewable energies and green investments, providing both emergency support and longer-term investment to help build a sustainable recovery.

  • To help Georgia fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Government donated three ultra-low temperature freezers to NCDC

    To help Georgia fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Government donated three ultra-low temperature freezers to NCDC to support Georgia’s readiness and administration efforts.

    This donation is part of more than $1,000,000 in funding from U.S. EUCOM, provided to Georgia through the Humanitarian Assistance Program.

  • Address of Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili

    Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili today announced that she pledges to pardon Giorgi Rurua if political actors sign the EU-backed compromise paper and enter the parliament.

    "I am surprised by the statement made today by the ruling party that uses my name over and over again without my permission and consent and links it to one specific pardon. They have not understood that such a decision, especially in such a case but not only, should be made without expectations of criticism or praise and only if I deem it necessary. I think I have already shown this through my deeds.

    I would like to remind everyone of one simple rule: the power of pardon is the discretion of the President and is not the subject of negotiations. I want to make it clear that the decision to pardon, as I have said more than once, is not subject to pressure, to instructions or demands, whether they may be from the opposition, the ruling party, or anyone else.

    According to principle, the President does not speak about pardons and does not disclose motivation. However, because of some continuous appeals on this subject and because of the current situation, I am forced to violate this principle and state clearly my position to stop any speculation.

    I think no one will be surprised to hear that for me and for the rest of society, someone with such a well-known past can be called many things, but not a political prisoner. That individual does not fit into any category of pardon by any means, be it righteousness, morality, or politics.

    Nevertheless, as I once already took it upon myself, I believe here again that if what’s at stake is the country’s political stalemate, its stability, progress, and future, it is the President’s duty to put the country above her own views and principles.

    With that in mind, I am ready to make a decision scandalous also for myself. But I make this decision only on my condition, that such a step must be the last step to end the crisis and pave the way for the country and for Parliament to enter a normal political life and deal with existing challenges without any other distractions.

    This means that my decision will be implemented only when, on the one hand, the political parties sign the final document and enter Parliament, and on the other hand, the representatives of the European Union and the United States announce that an agreement has been reached. Once this announcement is done, I will sign the act of pardon within a week", - the President of Georgia Says.

  • Joint statement of the Spokespersons of the EU High Representative/Vice-President and of the US Department of State on the EU mediation

    After nearly six months of negotiations, the citizens of Georgia have made clear that they want the political crisis to end, and for all elected Members to work together in Parliament and address the serious challenges facing the country, including the regional challenges, COVID, and the economic crisis.

    With this in mind, the European Union and the United States call on all Members of Georgia’s Parliament to sign the agreement that European Council President Michel will propose today. This is an agreement all Members can sign in good faith rather than a unilateral action that undermines the goal of a broad-based agreement.

    The institutional reforms in the agreement represent important progress for Georgia’s democratic development and are of significant benefit for its citizens, helping to create a more independent judiciary, stronger electoral processes, and a Parliament that can better reflect the voices of all people of Georgia.

    Accepting this compromise demonstrates courage and a commitment by all parties to put the needs of the citizens of Georgia first, ahead of the interests of any one political party.

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