COVID-19: Tackling misinformation and hesitancy through vaccination campaign

For some Ghanaians, walking voluntarily to a COVID-19 vaccination centre may be a waste of time as they need more hours to work and feed their families. The many mis­conceptions about the vaccine even reduces their willingness to get a jab and over the period some Ghanaian have been compelled to get vacci­nated for travelling purposes. While many have lingering concerns about COVID-19 Vaccines, data proves that it is both effective and safe, and health experts say vaccination is now the mainstay of COVID-19 preven­tion.

Ghana was the first country in the world to receive COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility, and started COVID-19 vaccination on March 1, 2021, for selected members of the public after which it was rolled out to all persons 18 years and above and then later to persons 15 years and above. The vaccination drive start­ed with a target of vaccinating 20 million people by July 2022, but as of August 10, 2022, about 19.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine mostly AstraZeneca had been administered.

To increase vaccination uptake, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and its partners declared December 2021 as a month of COVID-19 vaccination across the nation for all persons 18 years and above including lactating mothers. By the end of December 2021, a total of 2.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines were admin­istered, vaccine uptake later dropped to 1.6 million in January 2022.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ghana Health Service in efforts to reach more persons with the vaccine launched the 1st National COVI In efforts to reach more per­sons with the vaccine, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ghana Health Service D-19 Vaccination Campaign Days (NVDs) in February 2022, where 2.5 million doses of vaccines were deployed within 湩牰ve to seven days.

During the National Vaccination Days, vaccines are taken closer to the people in their communities, the campaign makes it possible for vaccinators to go to the market cen­tres, schools, churches, and mosque to administer jabs to the public. Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, Director General of the GHS, said the second, third and fourth series of the national vaccination campaign days have yielded positive results, moving the total number of doses administered from 13.8 million doses as of the end of April 2022 to 21 million doses at the end of November 2022.

“During the last four NVD campaign series, the dynamics of vaccine distribution and level of vaccination became positively correlated with total vaccine re­ceipts; as vaccine receipt quantities increased, vaccine distribution and level of vaccinations increased commensurately.”

Currently, over 12 million people in Ghana have received at least a dose of the COVID -19 vaccine with over 9 million fully immunized. The Director General said the end is far from sight since the disease is unpredictable and a larger proportion of the vac­cine-eligible population remains unvaccinated.

Dr Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Programme Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunization, GHS, says National COVID-19 Vaccination Days campaigns has worked as an effective strategy for improving COVID-19 vaccination coverage within a short time ‘The National COVID-19 Vaccina­tion Campaigns have shown to be an additional key strategy that gets a lot of persons vacci­nated within a short time, four of such campaigns have been completed with impressive results,” he said.

He emphasised that COVID-19 vaccines can and do protect most people from hos­pitalization and death, which is why as many doses need to be administered around the world as rapidly, and equitably, as possible. Dr Amponsa-Achiano said misinformation, disinfor­mation and pockets of hesitan­cy have been a major challenge in getting more persons vacci­nated especially in the Southern parts of the country.

To tackle misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, he said the GHS deploys health promotion o㳭០cers to all districts across the country to engage eligible persons on the e㳭០ciency and safety of the vaccine three days ahead of the campaign. Article 25 on the UN Convention on Human Rights states that; “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services……., hence, the right on every Ghanaian to receive adequate information on the safety of the vaccine to allow them to take a bold decision to get vaccinated.

Dr Francis Kasolo, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Ghana said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on healthcare systems and economies globally and Ghana needs to strengthen its transmis “Ghana has fully vaccinated about 30 per cent of the population, although global vaccine supply has improved addressing issues of vac­cine equity still persist and attaining 70 per cent coverage of the popula­tion in Ghana is no mean task and requires concerted efforts among stakeholders,” he said.

Dr Kasolo urged the media to use its platform to channel out accurate information to address myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccination. “It is the primary responsibility of health workers to educate themselves and discuss the need for a vaccine with patient, build trust with the patient and your peers and motivate them to accept the vaccine,” he said.

He stressed the need for the gov­ernment and stakeholders to use all available resources to address the risk factors of vaccine hesitancy. The WHO rep said Ghana needs to actively engage and provide resources to community organi­zations to create awareness about the safety of the vaccine within their communities and encourage citizens to receive the vaccine in confidence.

“These interventions need to be adequately resourced and evaluated at the first step towards closing the gap in achieving broader vaccina­tion for older children and adults,” he said.

Dr Kasolo said as Ghana consid­ers transitioning COVID -19 vacci­nation from campaigns to routine vaccination, closing the coverage gap due to hesitancy will make the transition more impactful.

Ghana has since March 2021, received over 34 million doses of varied COVID-19 vaccines, of which 30 million doses have been distributed. As of December 4, 2022, over 21 million doses have been administered, and about 9 million persons have been fully vaccinated with about 12 million persons, receiving at least a first dose. – GNA


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