PanAfricare Blog

Increasing Vaccination Coverage Through Community Outreaches


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Four years down the line and despite efforts to make the COVID-19 vaccine available and free to all, Turkana and Makueni Counties still continue registering some of the lowest vaccination coverage rates in Kenya.

By 2021, most of the 47 Counties had registered or were almost reaching the recommended goal of percentages vaccinated withing its inhabitants.Some of the challenges leading to this include hard to reach areas, logistical challenges, availability of vaccines and high levels of hesitancy towards vaccine uptake.

PanAfricare Kenya with funding and support from Rockefeller Foundation and Amref Health Africa launched the VAN Program aimed at increasing awareness and demand for the uptake of the vaccines in Makueni and Turkana Counties.

 Provisional vaccination data collected in the last two years both in Makueni and Turkana Counties show that the number of people who received at least one dose of vaccine has risen

Risk communication and community engagement were identified as the key strategies to overcome information and perception barriers, and increase vaccine uptake in the two counties where the program is being implemented.

The success of the outreach work was made possible by the Community Health Promoters, Village administrators, Chiefs and community gate keepers who did door to door campaigns aimed at sensitizing and mobilising the community members to come out in large numbers for medical outreaches and get vaccinated. All these activities were also done with the technical support of the respective Ministry of Health Departments in the Counties.

Outraches in Makueni County

I went from house to house in a community and met each member of the household and told them the importance of the COVID vaccine. We also included mother-to-mother support groups to enhance Covid-19 awareness in the community. It was an interesting time because as health workers we really needed to be innovative in our approach.” said Simon Nanok, a Nurse from Lokwatubwa Village in Loima Sub-County, Turkana County.

In all the centers and medical facilities, advocacy meetings were organised. Some of the meetings had representation from religious leaders, administration representatives, media, drivers and boda boda associations all aimed at getting their support during vaccination efforts and specifically on safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. This led to creation of ambassadors who were very essential in buying in commitment especially of religious leaders who were seen as essential in mobilizing the population.


Outreaches in Turkana County

In Makueni County, at the forefront of this hope stands Bishop Francis Matua, a figure whose leadership extends far beyond the spiritual realm into the practical realm of community health. When the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Makueni County in 2020, Francis Matua had already assumed office as the bishop of the Anglican Church Makueni Diocese.

“We had people who contracted the virus and sadly we lost a number of them. Their families had to bury their loved ones under very difficult circumstances that made it even harder for them to move on.”

Being on the forefront witnessing the effects of the virus, Bishop Matua says when the vaccines came it was a big relief for him. He used his position as a religious leader to influence his followers to get vaccinated. He notes that there were a lot of misinformation about the vaccines and the virus itself. Bishop Matua leveraged his platform to dispel myths and address concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines. Through sermons, community gatherings, and outreach programs, he encouraged open dialogue and provided factual information, laying the foundation for informed decision-making.

“When I took the vaccine I demonstrated that it was safe for anyone to take it. You could see more people especially men joining the queue to get vaccinated.” he adds

Additionally, messages promoting COVID 19 vaccination were produced and disseminated through mobile phone messages, interactive vernacular radio programs were broadcast across multiple radio stations, songs produced and dialogue days conducted to announce scheduled days of vaccination outreaches and spread messages about the benefits of vaccines.

                    By Peter Outa, Communications Specialist. PanAfricare Kenya