Overcoming hesitancy, one vaccination at a time
Faced with a third coronavirus wave in the DRC, health workers are mobilizing daily to promote vaccination and fight against disinformation.
Like everywhere in the world, the vaccination campaign against coronavirus continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Behind the number of people vaccinated, which is increasing on the daily basis, lies a team of dedicated workers, determined to do what is necessary to protect the population from the epidemic. One of these health workers is Jeanne Lusungu, nurse at the Provincial Hospital of North-Kivu in Goma.
“Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign supported by COVAX and UNICEF, I have been seconded to the hospital vaccination centre,” explains the 39-year-old nurse. “I vaccinate dozens of people every day, each time with the certainty of contributing to the protection of my fellow citizens. Working in the medical world is demanding, tiring work, but I believe in the usefulness of what I do.”
In a tent that welcomes candidates for vaccination, Jeanne's confidence is essential, because behind almost each vaccination hides an element of worry fueled by rumors and disinformation shared on social networks. “It is essential to speak and explain what you are doing”, says Jeanne, who always remains calm. “Candidates for immunization have often read or heard a lot of statements that have not been verified. So, inevitably, they are worried. But as soon as you talk to them a bit, it just works out.”
She explains to a patient what will happen after he sits in front of her. She tells him how much vaccine is going to be injected. She also shows him the seat where he should be kept under surveillance for about 10 minutes after the injection, in case of an anaphylactic shock.
Jeanne might get tired of having to repeat this message all day long, but she is patient. “I was worried before I got the vaccine. We heard so many things, rumours of all kinds,” she remembers. Like everyone else, she had her doubts. And yet, she was reminded daily of the urgency to protect herself from COVID-19.
“As a nurse, I come into contact with dozens of people. This quickly worried me. I was at a real risk of contracting the disease and of passing it on to those around me – my husband and my four children in the first place,” she says. The reality of the risk prompted her to analyse the situation. “When I saw the doctors, the authorities, get vaccinated, I didn’t hesitate any longer. Today, I do not regret it. It allows me to return home more serene. I am no longer a risk to those I love.”
At home, Jeanne is the pride of her children, aged from a few months to 18 years old. “I am very proud of her and of what she does for others,” says her son Brayan. “She vaccinates others so that everyone is protected against COVID-19. It is important.” But Jeanne’s husband was not the easiest to convince; he, too, was concerned by rumours. However, he ended up deciding to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“When we take the trouble to discuss, everyone understands that being vaccinated against this disease is a duty to protect those we love as well as the whole community,” Jeanne concludes between administering two more injections.