NAIROBI, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- African governments should embark on proactive engagement with local communities to boost uptake of COVID-19 vaccine once they are deployed in the continent, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional director for Africa said that involving communities at every stage of the vaccine's roll-out will help dispel misinformation that could undermine inoculation of high-risk groups.
"The success of any immunization campaign hinges on communities' trust and acceptance," Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
"It is vital that we equip them with the right information, allay any fears and address concerns," she added.
A ten-point vaccine readiness tool for 47 countries in the WHO African Region found that efforts to boost community engagement stood at only 12 percent as opposed to the 80 percent threshold.
The assessment tool found that community involvement ahead of COVID-19 vaccine launch was given lethargic attention yet it was critical to boost its acceptance in the sub-Saharan African region.
"Vaccines are our best hope of ending this pandemic. While all the efforts being made for successful immunization campaigns are critical, without community support they can easily flounder," said Moeti.
She said that strategic engagement with communities will help them gain better understanding of COVID-19 vaccine, its safety, efficacy and possible side effects.
According to Moeti, WHO is encouraging African countries to strengthen surveillance, regulation, training and monitoring systems in order to ensure the roll-out of the vaccine is devoid of glitches.
Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the WHO Immunization and Vaccine Development Program, said that multilateral institutions have partnered with governments and industry to promote access to COVID-19 vaccine in Africa.
"We have started working with African countries to prepare for logistics, infrastructure and adequate financing in order to ensure the vaccine is easily available to priority groups like healthcare workers," said Mihigo.
He said that grassroots-based advocacy is key to ensure that African communities have confidence in COVID-19 vaccine ahead of its roll-out expected next year. Enditem