Health workers and community leaders in Tanzania are noticing a shift in attitudes among young and old people as part of a larger campaign to separate vaccine reality from vaccine fiction. Because of contradictory pronouncements from higher-ups, myths and misleading information regarding the vaccine have already proliferated in Tanzania’s metropolitan centers.
According to Tanzania’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Aifello Sichalwe, widespread misinformation has led to a “lower COVID-19 risk perception among the general population, reducing vaccine visits to health institutions.”
Nonetheless, intense information initiatives supported by local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in collaboration with the government have begun to bear fruit. Influential community members, such as religious leaders and community health experts, have played an important role in raising awareness and eradicating prejudices.
Dr. Elisha Osati, a respiratory infection expert at Muhimbili National Hospital, is another health worker who has sought to provide accurate, scientifically-based information about the pandemic virus to the Swahili-speaking population. There are various concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine. “At this moment,” Osati continues, “there is a need to examine where the first phase of the campaign failed and build on the deficiencies to achieve higher targets.” “Campaigns in the future should reach individuals through community leaders, workplaces, and religious institutions,” he adds.
The Ministry of Health’s goal for the next COVID-19 immunization cycle, which begins in June 2022, is to make immunizations more accessible to the general public. Mobile and community outreach services, according to Sichalwe, would be extended in this new phase. He estimates that by December 2022, almost 70% of the target population (those over the age of 18) will have been reached.
Tanzania has received nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, four hundred thousand doses of Pfizer, one million doses of Sinovac, and three million doses of Sinopharm from the COVAX Facility.
Furthermore, community-level data show that vaccination rates among children are increasing just in time for the upcoming campaign. Mohammed Chuma, a Community Health Worker in Mwananyamala, a Dar es Salaam suburb, has noticed a shift in attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines among young people who were previously reluctant to be immunized.
“Most young people did not take immunization seriously because they assumed they were not at risk,” Chuma adds. “However, I have seen a considerable proportion of them choose to be vaccinated by educating them about the larger goal of national immunization programs.”