Promoting Covid-19 vaccination in Nicaragua on all fronts
UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health in reaching vaccine coverage in the most vulnerable population.
Thalia (7) plays with her friends in El Cocal community in Bilwi, home of Karata indigenous territory, in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, while nurse Kerlin Maynor, prepares a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to Thalia, during a pediatric Covid-19 immunization campaign, implemented by the Ministry of Health (MoH), with UNICEF´s support.
‘‘I felt a little pain, but I know it's good for me (to get vaccinated). When I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor’’, says Thalia.
Nurse Maynor explains the barriers to increase vaccine coverage among indigenous families and children like Thalia. ‘‘Covid-19 vaccines were a taboo in our communities, there has been all sort of beliefs about getting vaccinated. We had to visit families at their homes to address misinformation’’. Health personal was equipped with communication materials and training to tackle vaccine hesitancy.
UNICEF supported the MoH in implementing communications strategies in culturally adapted formats.
To address religious beliefs, UNICEF connected faith-based organizations with the MoH, and through a joint effort, stablished an active network of religious leaders that collaborate with local health structures. A bible-based guide was designed with religious leaders, grounded on biblical-theological principles to support the immunization process.
Pastor Amelia Salinas, religious leader, explained that: "Participating in this process provided us effective tools to guide the community and promote verified information, in this case, related to Covid-19 and vaccination. The religious reflections guide helps to exemplify what the word of God mandates regarding the health care of children and adolescents".
Within the strategy, young people and adolescents were powerful voices in promoting vaccine confidence. A network of young content creators was created and trained on social media and crafting messages.
“When we see a young person talking to another young person, we pay more attention because we are seeing someone just like us who is talking about a subject that is important, people become aware and get vaccinated,” said Slilma Blucha, a UNICEF young volunteer in Bilwi.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Martha Reyes, referred to this pandemic response model saying: "We recognize UNICEF´s support since the beginning of the pandemic, which includes training our human resources, but also the campaign, which strengthened vaccine demand. Thanks to these joint efforts to vaccinate Nicaraguan families, Nicaragua is the first country in Central America to have the highest vaccination coverage against Covid-19, with complete vaccination schemes".
The integrated approach was grounded in identifying the most effective information sources for increasing individuals’ intention to take the Covid-19 vaccines.
‘‘My daughter being fully vaccinated makes me feel safe, even if the virus affects us, we won’t become seriously ill’’, says Candida Herrera, Thalia´s mother.