A total of 40 Vaccine Champions have undergone training on COVID-19 public sensitisation, myths and misconceptions, developing effective communication strategies, and working with data collection tools, among other insightful topics to increase vaccine uptake in the country.
The two-day Vaccine Champions training was held in Accra and Kumasi as those cities recorded the highest cases of the COVID-19 disease since its emergence in the country in March 2020.
It was in line with the Partnership for Accelerated COVID-19 Testing (PACT) 2.0 project, embarked on by Hope for Future Generations (HFFG), in partnership with the National Association of Persons Living with HIV (NAP+) Ghana, Young Health Advocates Ghana (YHAG), and the Ghana Red Cross Society (GRCS), with technical support from the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
The project is supported by UNAIDS and funded by the Government of Germany to strengthen community engagement in response to COVID-19 hesitancy reduction in the country.
Vaccine hesitancy in Ghana remains a stumbling block towards the country’s quest to achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 hence the initiative.
Mrs Cecilia Senoo, Executive Director of HFFG, speaking during the training in Accra, described the current state of vaccine hesitancy as worrying hence the urgency of the project.
Mrs Senoo commended the Vaccine Champions for availing themselves to embark on a “worthy cause” and encouraging them to remain devoted to their mandate.
Mr Eric Sinayobye, UNAIDS Ghana Youth Programmes Officer informed participants that while the first version of the PACT project was aimed at contact tracing, the second version was intended to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
Mr Sinayobye said “UNAIDS together with partners believe that fighting vaccine misinformation is integral to increasing vaccine uptake.”
During the training, facilitators from the GHS, GRCS, and HFFG educated the Vaccine Champions on various methods of dispelling fear generated by erroneous beliefs about COVID-19 vaccines.
Eunice Joan Teah Dzagli from the Health Promotion Division of the GHS in Accra underscored that “vaccines do not kill but if you are not vaccinated, you can be killed.”
Mr Ernest Nyame Annan, National Primary Health Care Officer, GRCS highlighted the integral role Vaccine Champions- who are volunteers- played in dispelling fear of COVID-19 vaccines.
Mr Felix Annan, Health Promotion Officer, GHS in Kumasi emphasised that “COVID-19 vaccines do not contain microchips. The vaccines are safe.”
Elsie Ayeh, President of NAP+ charged the Vaccine Champions to listen carefully to the concerns of the population, demystify misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, and ultimately increase vaccine uptake at health facilities and communities.