Covid-19 outreach campaign: PUI trusted voices to overcome vaccine reluctance

/ / Support in Al-kufra

Belaid, a 38 years old sociologist and assistant lecturer at Al-Kufra University, volunteering with the Libyan Red Crescent Society, has joined PUI community mobilization team to contribute to improving how his community perceived the disease and the vaccine. Along with 22 other Community mobilizers, he was trained to play a crucial role in his community tackling misinformation and misconception about Covid-19 and the vaccines.

Belaid, PUI Community Mobilizer during an individual information-sharing session ©Première Urgence Internationale

He was also trained on how sharing information in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government guidelines can build trust to ensuring vaccine uptake and buy-in on another level. He says: “Too much conflicting information on vaccines, misinformation, and disinformation impacted negatively people’s attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and intention to accept vaccination. Thus we were continually briefed on the misinformation, disinformation and rumors around Covid-19 vaccines and how to build and maintain trust.

Adopting a community-centered approach, PUI Community Mobilisers , well equipped with tailored messages and materials, defeating all persistent access issues, visited hard-to-reach households, shops, gas stations, public spaces, and primary healthcare facilities across Al-Jawf, Al-Tullab, Al-Shura, reaching remote areas of Tazirbu and Rebyana up to 400 KM far away from the main city of Al-Jawf. Through groups and door to door awareness sessions, they were answering questions, doubts, and fears around Covid-19 vaccines.

PUI CM providing information on covid-19 vaccine on door to door visits in Al-Kufra, Libya ©Première Urgence Internationale

Similarly, Khadija joins PUI medical team regularly within the supported health facilities. She believes that following up closely on the visitors of the health facility seeking medical assistance and, using inclusive approaches to disseminate key

messages on the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines, really help patients to make an informed decision about getting the vaccine, particularly the most vulnerable ones, at high risk of developing serious symptoms. She recalls:” I’m personally not able to forget this elderly man, who visited the primary healthcare facility where we were deployed. He was, seeking medical assistance for his chronic respiratory disease and when I asked whether he was vaccinated against Covid-19, he told me he was not yet I explained that vaccination, combined with hand hygiene and other protective measures, is a critical intervention to protect from severe illness and reduce intensive care admissions numbers. I was thrilled when he decided to take the vaccine and the boosts.”

PUI CMs filling out Adverse Effects after Immunization for Covid-19 forms in Al-Rifi Al-Hweige Vaccination Center in AL-Kufra, Libya ©Première Urgence Internationale

Moreover, throughout the ongoing Covid-19 immunization campaign, alongside community awareness-raising sessions, an evidence-based advocacy campaign was launched on Al-Kufra local radio station, one of the main trusted local communication channel, PUI team has worked closely with Al-Kufra Department of Health Services and the National Centre for Diseases Control , and local government’s representatives, to promote positive messaging around Covid-19 vaccines and to garner support for vaccinators and health care providers. Indeed, specific targeted messaging campaigns were successful and effective in reaching a majority of patients, served by community and rural primary health care centres. 72% of the overall visitors of the vaccination centers seek the Covid-19 vaccine following radio voice messages and individual awareness-raising sessions.                       

With the generous contribution of the European Union, Swiss Confederation, and Italian Cooperation, since 2019 PUI has supported more than seven healthcare facilities across Al-Kufra region and continues to provide support to the Department of Health Services in promoting equal access to quality healthcare services for Libyans, refugees, and migrants.