"Until they're all vaccinated, I'm not giving myself peace."
Through the advanced strategy against COVID-19, a vaccinator travels to meet her patients in the hamlets of Segou.
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Bah Traoré Fofana, a health worker at the Konombougou Community Health Center (CSCOM) in Segou region, is traveling to the village of Suigui Dolo Wèrè. She leaves home very early by motorcycle with her cool box equipped for vaccination against COVID-19.
The population of the rural region of Segou includes mainly farmers, and traders, who leave their villages very early to go about their business. They don't have time to go to the health centre to be vaccinated. Through the advanced vaccination strategy developed by the government and partners, including UNICEF, health workers visit villages located between 5 and 15 kilometers from the community health centres to conduct COVID-19 vaccinations.
In the courtyard of the village chief's home, those who want to be vaccinated have gathered under a tree. Ms. Traoré welcomes them, asks them a few identification questions and puts them at ease. She takes the information required for vaccination: date and place of birth and any possible illnesses. She notes this information on the individual form that she will later give them and that will serve as their vaccination card. A young man, Sadio Barry, 25 years old, approaches her. She greets him, answers his questions to put him at ease, and fills out his card.
Delicately, Ms. Traoré takes out a syringe and fills it with the vaccine. She cleans his arm and administers the dose.
"I know that the vaccine will protect me from the Coronavirus and its severe forms. I also know that I will not die from the disease in case I contract it. Plus, with the card, I can travel more easily."
Some people, like Sadio, remain unperturbed during the injection. He receives the vaccine without blinking. Others in the audience grimace at the sight of the syringe. They know that the vaccine can save them, but are sometimes uncomfortable with the needle. Ms. Traoré, attentive to the eyes of the people being vaccinated, reassures them. "It doesn't hurt, it goes quickly, just close your eyes," she says with a smile.
When the COVID-19 vaccines arrived, the population was not enthusiastic about them. The advanced strategy was then put in place. Since then, the health center’s staff organized several field visits to meet with the population and encourage them to receive vaccines.
"My motivation is that today the population is not afraid anymore. People have confidence because they understand that this vaccine can prevent them from getting sick or developing a serious form of coronavirus."
Ms. Traoré participated in a training session to sensitize the community and encourage community members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 organized by UNICEF as part of the programme "Support to vaccination against COVID-19 in Mali, in the framework of COVAX Facility", financed by the Andalusian Agency for International Cooperation (AACID). As part of the partnership, UNICEF also supported the government to ensure that there are regular radio announcements about COVID-19 vaccination. Influencers and religious leaders have also been trained to raise awareness, share verified information about the virus and encourage the population get vaccinated. The community health centres have also received protective equipment to ensure respect of hygiene measures and the implementation of vaccination campaigns.
"I can come back another time, but until everyone is vaccinated, I will not give myself peace."
Mali surpassed 10 per cent vaccination coverage against COVID-19 in November 2022, thanks to the combined efforts of the government, the population, technical and financial partners. Vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 and the advanced strategy will continue in 2023. We all have a role to play in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us not give up in the fight against this pandemic.