With funding from UNDP, National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC) has deployed some 402 mobilisers and supervisors in Western Area Rural and Urban Districts over 60 days, preparing communities for mass COVID-19 vaccination at ward level. This support aims to intensify ground-level community engagements to counter rumours and misinformation, and increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.
The composition of the mobilisers includes ward committee members, religious leaders, ‘keke’ and bike riders, persons with disabilities, women, and youth leaders who can be easily identified within communities in their UNDP/NaCOVERC ‘Corona fet na we all fet’ branded T-shirts.
According to NaCOVERC, hesitancy still exists around coronavirus vaccines. There are many instances where communities need assurance for uptake, which they would get, especially when engaged by people from within the same communities through the reasoning that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
Since the virus struck over a year ago, the world, including Sierra Leone, has not only seen death and morbidity but also slowdown in general economic activities leading to recession. All these have negatively impacted on the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For UNDP Resident Representative Pa Lamin Beyai, NaCOVERC should use this opportunity to work closely with community leaders, potential pioneers of change, to ensure that all persons 18 years old and above are vaccinated. Pa Lamin also commended the leadership of NaCOVERC, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, development partners, and the Government of Sierra Leone for taking up this important and timely campaign.
“This is why UNDP has partnered with NaCOVERC and the Government in support of Government ’s ongoing mass vaccination campaign, without leaving anyone behind,” he assured.
Early May 2020, following the announcement of mandatory use of face masks in public, UNDP partnered with NaCOVERC on a similar approach and equipped 940 community volunteers and deployed them in 190 chiefdoms around the country to raise public awareness on COVID-19 while showing solidarity.
Community interventions, no matter how vital, cannot be pushed into communities without proper information preceding them. UNDP wasted no time on NaCOVERC’s Public Information, Risk Communication and Social Mobilisation (PIRCSM) Pillar request to support the “vaccine boosters”.
NaCOVERC and the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners have made considerable efforts to strengthen health systems to fight against COVID-19 and contain the virus. Despite the gains, achieving some form of herd immunity is difficult to reach, especially considering the country’s current trend of vaccination rate. Less than 5% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Against this background, vaccination campaigns should focus on translating the high levels of stated acceptance into actual uptake of vaccines.
Therefore, the 402 mobilisers and supervisors are intensifying community engagement/mobilisation through ward-level door-to-door visits, trained to deliver key messages on COVID-19 Vaccines while calling citizens to action.
Total financial resources UNDP has allocated for this support is One Billion Two Hundred and Fifty-Four Million Six Hundred Thousand Leones (Le 1,254,600,000), complementing initial COVID-19 support to the Government and People of Sierra Leone.