By Julie Ngigi | firstname.lastname@example.org
The world is gearing up for the largest vaccination campaign in the history of mankind; The COVID-19 vaccination drive.
The vaccine is largely seen as a saviour from the untold suffering and disruptions that the world experienced in 2020 when the virus spread globally infecting and killing millions, overwhelming health systems, and distracting livelihoods.
High-Income Countries (HICs) including the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and Belgium have started acquiring the vaccine and inoculating their citizens against the deadly virus with fully trialled and tested COVID-19 vaccines.
Countries in the global south, however, will have to wait longer for the life-saving vaccine owing to high global demand and pressure it presents to the supply chain and other familiar barriers such as the cost of the vaccine.
WHO estimates that Africa will require around US$5.7 billion excluding other costs such as delivery, training, and community mobilization. Kenya for instance placed an order of 24 million AstraZeneca vaccines that are expected to land in the country in the first half of February 2021.
This first order was made possible through an African Union initiative that is aimed at ensuring that African nations are not left out in vaccination exercise.
Kenya is also among the 156 countries to sign an agreement with COVAX through WHO to help in the acquisition of the muchneeded vaccine.
Other African countries, donors, health agencies, and health initiatives such as COVAX are working round the clock to ensure that Low-Income Countries (LICs) are not left out in this global vaccination drive by ensuring fair and equitable access to approved COVID-19 Vaccines.
The acquisition of the life-saving vaccine however is only the battle half won, the success of the mass vaccination exercise depends on vaccine acceptability and uptake by people.
To win the battle against COVID-19, scientists are banking on boosting herd immunity that is achieved when a large section of the population is infected and recovered or when a large section of the population is vaccinated against a pathogen.
To this end, Africa has set the ambitious goal of vaccinating 200 million of her people in the next 2-3 years. According to a study conducted by Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), 79 per cent of respondents said they would take the vaccine if deemed safe and effective.
This means that relentless promotion of the vaccine to create awareness, dispel myths, and promote uptake should take entre stage in preparation of the mass vaccination drive to ensure a successful rollout.
Experts need to keep in mind that promotion of the vaccine will happen against a backdrop of a global decline in vaccine acceptability compounded by COVID-19 and COVID-19 infodemic largely characterized by growing myths and conspiracy theories.
Health promotion strategies need to be designed to address these issues that could propagate COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. In addition, the health promotion strategies need to be grounded in research; conducting in-depth Knowledge, Attitude and Perception surveys should be a priority before designing and rolling out Vaccine promotion campaigns.
Efficient and effective vaccination messages need to be delivered through the right channels; the audiences are fast evolving due to the dynamic media landscape meaning the audiences are evolving fast. Careful mapping of the audience needs to be done to ensure that everyone has been educated about the vaccine particularly those who are in rural areas.
This calls for creativity in channelling messages away from traditional and digital media. Lessons learnt from previous public health campaign will come in handy in designing COVID-19 vaccine promotion strategies, Kenya for example has had successful public health campaigns such as Polio, malaria and Guinea worm campaigns successfully.
The success of past campaign should serve as an assurance that an effective campaign to promote COVID-19 is possible.