CHReaD Hosts Champions to Boost COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in the East African Region

by Amref Health Africa

As part of its advocacy strategy, CHReaD has been leveraging existing advocacy initiatives and partnerships with the Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS and Health Service Organizations (EANNASO), the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to mobilize influential Community Champions to support advocacy for equitable access to, increase uptake of COVID-19 tools and advocate for policy changes in the region around new health and medical products introduction.

We have undertaken capacity building initiatives of the Champions, supporting them to engage communities within their localities; we have seen a steady increase in the level of uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, especially in Kenya and Uganda.

In Uganda, working with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Champions facilitated two national Training of Trainers (ToT) meetings. This was later cascaded to 10 regional trainings targeting teachers- a category that had registered very low uptake of vaccines. As a result of these awareness sessions, coupled with concerted efforts of other stakeholders, 95% of the teachers had been vaccinated as of 6th October 2021.

In Kenya, more people are taking up Covid-19 vaccines as a result of media forums, and more content being developed and disseminated by media champions promoting vaccine awareness (CHReaD worked with the National Covid-19 Taskforce to implement the first-ever Champion-driven media campaign targeting both rural and urban communities); Community Champions among elders and clergy already promoting vaccine awareness within their communities; and are now among ToTs used by MoH to promote vaccine uptake. Through regular consultation with the MoH and media engagements, Kenya’s ministry of health has now fully embraced the idea of working with community champions in driving vaccine uptake. CHReaD also used its extensive experience and work with community-level champions to provide technical support to MoH in developing national guidelines for engaging community leaders in vaccine drive.  

One of the delegates, Cardinal Elias Komenya while speaking at the EAC Conference in Machakos)
One of the delegates, Cardinal Elias Komenya while speaking at the EAC Conference in Machakos)

Vaccine rollout in Kenya, from the onset, faced a major challenge of hesitancy from many Kenyans, with only 3.8% of the population vaccinated as of October 2021. Sensitization was, therefore, key to ensuring that all populations are reached and vaccinated to stop new infections of COVID-19, and in turn, lead to a return to normalcy of lives; socially, physically and economically.

One of such meetings held in Nakuru sought to strengthen the capacity of the interfaith council, religious leaders and elders on COVID-19 vaccines, enlisted the leaders as champions to support vaccines drive in Kenya, promoted experience sharing among the elders and clergy on their struggles with the vaccines and charted a way forward in promoting vaccines access and uptake.

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