People wait for their COVID-19 vaccinations at a shopping mall in Luanda, Angola. ©WHO
WHO and partners are redoubling efforts to give everyone the opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19, reaching into communities with poor access and fighting misinformation with facts about vaccine safety and efficacy.
In Lesotho, teachers and school board members are taking special courses to help them promote vaccination among students, while in Kenya and other countries, health workers are taking their vaccination campaigns to homes and hard-to-reach groups such as the elderly and people living with disabilities.
Africa and the Caribbean have undertaken broader efforts to target geographies with lagging vaccination rates.
A new grant of US$ 16 million from ECHO (the European Union Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) will support efforts in 15 African countries. Vaccine coverage remains low on the continent, with about 13% of the population fully vaccinated.
“The support by the European Union injects a crucial momentum into the drive to reach this year’s 70% target vaccination amongst the population and protect them from the adverse impacts of this virus,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Read more about work that WHO donors help to support:
Teachers and school board members at a COVID-19 awareness workshop at Kolojane Primary School, Lesotho. ©WHO
In Lesotho, COVID-19 vaccination among adolescents is up following a series of WHO-supported workshops that help local educators become advocates for immunization.
The workshops are teaching participants to tackle vaccine hesitancy and promote uptake in the community, with the objective of helping the country reach herd immunity. Canada contributed funds for the effort.
“We learned so much about vaccines and how they work,” said ‘Mathabiso Motšoeneng, a member of the Kolojane Primary School Board. “Now that we are knowledgeable, we will pass what we have learned to our communities and children.”
Tšita Maqatsa, a nurse at Kolojane Health Centre, said vaccine uptake for 12-to-17-year-olds in the area increased after the workshops.
“It dawned on us that people wanted to receive education to take informed decisions,” she said.
Teaming up for vaccine coverage (left to right) are Daniel Best, Director of Projects, CDB; Jennifer Heys, Head of Cooperation, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Global Affairs Canada; and Dean Chambliss, Subregional Program Director, PAHO
The Caribbean will be the focus of a new initiative aimed at promoting COVID-19 vaccine uptake among healthcare workers and the region’s most at-risk populations.
The collaborative effort by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Global Affairs Canada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will tackle vaccine hesitancy in the face of pandemic fatigue, misinformation, and the relaxation of pandemic protection protocols across the region.
At a recent press conference, PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said that of the 13 countries and territories that didn’t reach WHO’s 40 percent vaccination target for 2021, ten are in the Caribbean.
A health worker is vaccinated for COVID-19 in Mogadishu, Somalia. ©WHO/Ismail Taxta
WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and partners are supporting mass-vaccination campaigns in 10 priority countries in Africa to reach 100 million people by the end of April.
In the year following the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, health workers administered some 400 million doses – the continent’s biggest vaccine rollout for a single disease in a single year. Yet Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are still the lowest in the world.
“We need a quantum leap,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Mass-vaccination drives are one tactic which is enabling countries to speed up their rollout.”
A vaccination campaign in Kenya. ©WHO
In Kenya, vaccine outreach campaigns have ventured out of medical facilities to serve people in markets, bus terminals and other everyday settings, and have engaged women, youth groups, motorcycle taxi drivers and religious leaders to help reach people who tend to get overlooked.
WHO has supported the work, coordinating with county health teams to dispel vaccine myths and misconceptions: for example, that COVID-19 vaccination affects fertility and male libido or causes death.
In Kisumu County in western Kenya, one of the 11 counties targeted, WHO teams and the county health department worked with an association for people living with disabilities and a street-families consortium to make sure no one was left behind.
Read about similar efforts in other African countries:
Chad accelerates COVID-19 vaccine delivery
Malawi works to increase vaccine uptake
Sierra Leone mobilizes communities to raise vaccination rates
Togo installs “vaccinodromes” at football stadiums, intersections and other busy spots
With support from WHO and partners, countries are taking measures such as expanding vaccination sites, ensuring effective use of vaccine stocks, mobilizing communities, fighting misinformation, training health workers and more. Above, a vaccination in Lilongwe, Malawi. ©WHO/Victoria Mkuhuna
Mauritius has surpassed global COVID-19 vaccination goals for 2022. ©WHO/Blink Media – Gilliane Soupe
Mauritius was among the first African countries to launch COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, and today has reached at least two-thirds of its population of 1.3 million.
The island nation achieved this feat, in part, by making it easier for people to get vaccinated. Health workers set up neighbourhood vaccination sites and visited the homes of people who couldn’t get to them.
The country broadcasts a steady stream of messages on television, radio and social media to strengthen public health measures. The government has introduced legislation to bolster vaccine uptake and a tax on petroleum products to sustain the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The country also allocated funds to procure vaccines early, and in significant quantity.
Luz Dominayos of Davao City, Philippines, spoke with WHO about her unvaccinated father’s death from COVID-19 in hopes of helping others avoid the same fate.
Roperto “Perry” Lochim Barbadillo declined vaccination, fearing that it would worsen his other health problems. He died of COVID-19 on 10 June 2021. He was 72.
“If only he were vaccinated earlier, maybe that wouldn’t be the case,” Ms Dominayos said.
Nurses in Mexico City. ©WHO
In a media briefing on 9 March, PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said the COVID-19 pandemic is still a threat, with countries logging record numbers of new Omicron infections.
“We all want the pandemic to be over, but optimism alone cannot control the virus,” she said, and called on countries to keep a “finger on the pulse.”
In the first two months of 2022, the Americas accounted for 63% of new cases worldwide.
Dr Etienne urged countries to base their decisions on risk assessments and health data, and to tighten public guidance if cases go up.
“When places relax measures at the wrong moment, transmission spikes dangerously and we lose more lives,” she said.
In related news, a new report released by PAHO on 8 March says the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women in the Americas, contributing to greater gender inequality in health and threatening women’s development and wellbeing.
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Learn how WHO supports countries around the world in strengthening their health systems to deliver health for all through a primary healthcare approach.
Partners and donors recognized in this feature include ACT-Accelerator, Canada, Christian Health Association – Lesotho, Davao Medical School Foundation’s Institute of Primary Care, ECHO, Gavi, the vaccine alliance, Global Health Access Initiative, Lesotho Red Cross, Lesotho World Vision and UNICEF.
WHO thanks all governments, organizations and individuals contributing to the COVID-19 response around the world since the beginning of the outbreak, and in particular those who have provided fully flexible contributions, to ensure a comprehensive fight against the disease.
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Member States and other governments since 2021:
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Comoros, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lesotho, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America.
Other partners since 2021:
African Development Bank Group, African Reinsurance Corporation, Alma Jean Henry Charitable Trust, Ancash, Asian Development Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), China Medical Board, COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, European Commission (ECHO, NEAR, DG-INTPA), FIND-the global alliance for diagnostics, Fundacion MAPFRE, FYT, Gavi-The Vaccine Alliance, International Development Association (IDA), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Kuwait Fund for Development, National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), Rockefeller Foundation, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Sony, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Task Force for Global Health (TFGH), The UN Resident Coordinator Office (UNRCO), Unitaid, United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA), United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Veolia Environment Foundation, Vital Strategies, WHO Foundation, World Bank.
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