Zimbabwe works on a consolidated Vaccination campaign strategy

The Demand Strategy provides a framework for the development of strategic and well-coordinated national action plans to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation and build demand for vaccination.

Loveness Chimombe
UNICEFZimbabwe/2020/Loveness Chimombe
16 April 2021

Forty participants drawn from the Ministry of Health and Child Care national, provincial and district teams, WHO, UNICEF and Civil Society Organisations representing youth, women and faith-based organizations recently held a COVID-19 Vaccine Demand Strategy development workshop in support of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Zimbabwe.

UNICEF provided financial and technical support to the Ministry of Health and Child Care to conduct the critical five-day workshop that was held from 29 March to 2 April 2021.

Organisations provided their input into the development of the national strategy which is a key component of overall strategies to engage communities and increase uptake of services, particularly among objectors and hesitant groups.

The Demand Strategy provides a framework for the development of strategic and well-coordinated national action plans to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation and build demand for vaccination.

Speaking of the importance of the strategy, Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET)

National Director, Tendai Gudo said: “At community level, when we understand the underlying determinants of a persons or a community’s vaccine decision, we can engage with them, through trusted voices, by framing the conversations in a way that resonates and provides them with simple, coherent explanations and answers to their vaccination questions”.

Group discussion
UNICEFZimbabwe/2020/Loveness Chimombe

Reflecting on findings from the COVID-19 Vaccine Adult Perception survey conducted by UNICEF to understand the behavioral and social norms that influence vaccine uptake, participants acknowledged that the novel coronavirus has triggered a social pandemic of misinformation – an infodemic – that has spread across social networks.

Vaccine Hesitancy

The survey findings highlighted widespread mistrust, low vaccine confidence and low intention to vaccinate across all demographic groups due to safety concerns; lack of trust in science, efficacy and lack of information on vaccines.

Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) representative Ronald Nare expressed concern concurring that due to misinformation, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories motivated by religion have shown to decrease people’s intentions to vaccinate.

He said: “Vaccination hesitancy has been strong among faith communities. In order to change this behaviour, faith leaders must be engaged as key influencers and positive role models. If faith is a problem, faith must be the solution”.

The survey revealed negative religious beliefs and social norms particularly among the apostolic sects and pentecostal religious movements and skepticism due to social media misinformation.

The Demand Strategy thus sets out to provide a guiding framework and strategic approaches to combat the current infodemic and misinformation that has proved to be just as dangerous as the virus itself.

The implementation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Demand Strategy will ensure that target populations and communities value vaccination, trust the safety and efficacy of vaccines and have the necessary information and motivation to access vaccination services, as appropriate.

Another UNICEF partner, Vuka Africa performing arts is utilizing theatre for development to increase trust in vaccines and get more people to be advocates for vaccination.

Tawanda Muguze, Vuka Afrika Programmes Coordinator said: “Vuka, through its network of performing artists will mobilize and enable the many positive voices to share support for vaccines and provide social proof to build confidence in vaccines.” 

He added: “A multimedia and influencer approach will be utilized to ensure that information, knowledge and skills are disseminated widely about the importance of COVID – 19 vaccine and associated behaviours to reduce the risk of infection at household and community levels”.

Donors coming together to fight COVID-19

With funding from the Health Development Fund (HDF) supported by the EU, UK Aid, Sweden, Irish Aid and Gavi, UNICEF is acting now to defuse the COVID-19 infodemic, working with partners and communities to mitigate the impact of misinformation on vaccines, and build demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

Through UNICEF support, AWET is collaborating with faith leaders, community leaders and behaviour change facilitators to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviours and vaccination.

AWET’s Interfaith COVID-19 Social and Behaviour Change campaign utilizes Interpersonal Communication and multi-media channels to reach and engage millions of people with accurate and reliable information on C-19 prevention and vaccination.

The COVID-19 Demand Strategy provides guidance on dissemination of timely, accurate and transparent information about the vaccine(s) to ensure acceptance and encourage uptake. The strategy will also serve to guide national, provincial and district level risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities, to ensure that the information on the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination process reaches all provinces in the country.