COVID-19 vaccine acceptance through grassroots engagement

Increasing jabs in Warrap State

Atëm Agot Deng
13 August 2021

Following the national launch of the COVID-19 vaccination in May, the Warrap State Government and humanitarian partners, led by the Health Pooled Fund (HPF), launched a vaccination campaign on 11 June 2021. The 4,000 doses of the first shipment will reach individuals across the six counties of Warrap State. Four select vaccination sites, including Kuajok Hospital in Gogrial West County, Tonj Hospital in Tonj South County, Marial-lou Hospital in Tonj North and Mother Thereza Hospital in Twic, are seeing eligible people above 18 years of age to receive a dose.

The first days of the vaccination in all four sites witnessed long queues with many people lining up to receive a jab of the COVID-19 Astrazeneca Vaccine. However, as time went by, the numbers of people coming for vaccines in Tonj South kept diminishing. The second, third and fourth days in Tonj indicated an average of 20 people vaccinated per day, which was far too low from what is projected according to the team’s micro plan; at least 80 people vaccinated per day.

A rapid assessment by the team indicated that there was an information gap among the community members regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Even some health workers had reservations about the vaccine resulting from misinformation and disinformation linked to the nouveau vaccine.

Consequently, a blend of communication activities, with the assistance of the Integrated Community Mobilization Network (ICMN), helped to increase the daily vaccination coverage in Tonj on the sixth day from 20 people to over 200 per day. The team used community meetings with religious and community leaders, teachers, youth and women groups to gauge concerns raised and brought on the board the County Health Department and clinical experts to answers questions regarding vaccine hesitancy.

Community mobilizer getting a vaccine
Community mobilizer, John Malith, receiving his COVID-19 vaccine in Tonj county.

John Malith, 35-years-old, uses his role as a priest and a community mobilizer to reach out and engage communities around Tonj South on the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. He got vaccinated and carries his vaccination certificate while mobilizing other community members to take the jab.

“It’s my role to alert our people about the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them and their loved ones from the risk of contracting coronavirus,” he said. “I have received my first and I am here. I use my experience as a living example that the vaccine is safe because I have received it and nothing bad has happened to me,” Rev. Malith continues.

A young woman received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Young women are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine so as not to be left behind.

Warrap State is among the states that have reported a shortage of vaccine supplies. Thankfully, the second batch of vaccines is set to arrive by late August.

UNICEF's integrated community mobilization network (ICMN) is generously supported by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GAVI, The African Development Bank, the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Development Bank, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and UK Aid.