Cameroon’s community leaders drive demand for Covid-19 vaccines

According to a report Published on September 17, 2021, by the World Health Organization, local leaders in Yaoundé working with over 2300 community mobilizers and 1450 vaccination teams, were crucial to the success of a rapid Covid-19 vaccination drive that saw 52 000 people vaccinated across Cameroon in just five days in July.

In an exclusive interview with officials of the World Health Organization, Community leader, Jean Calvin Nama-Ntse who works to build trust in Covid-19 vaccines in the Nkomassia and Nkolbisson communities in the capital Yaoundé, revealed the situation on grounds. A life-long community member, he is a traditional Chief, Chairman of the Nkolbisson Health District and Chairman of the Management Committee at Nkolbisson’s Integrated Health Centre.

When asked about the biggest challenges in fighting Covid-19 and demand for vaccines in their areas of jurisdiction, Jean Calvin Nama-Ntse said that their population is quite young and although they are generally well informed, not everyone is aware of all the risks from Covid-19, so not everyone sticks to the prevention measures or are keen to get vaccinated.

Despite the flood of information on Covid-19, there is still fear, doubt and scepticism around vaccination, according to this community leader. Rumours and misinformation spreading on social media and dreamed up by certain people sow doubt and reluctance to get vaccinated leave people at greater risk in these localities.

According to his experience, people who have had the disease or seen others suffer with it are far more aware of the risks and are much keener to get vaccinated.

“If we use more of these people as educators, I’m sure they will raise the uptake of vaccines. Also, when leaders get vaccinated in public other people follow especially big media personalities, artists and religious leaders.

As a community leader I made a point of getting vaccinated in public. Putting vaccination points in public spaces like markets, at crossroads or near churches also builds confidence in the community and leads to more people coming for vaccination,” the traditional chief advised.

As regards the support this leader received from WHO in line with the promotion of vaccines, Jean Calvin joined workshops on how to mobilize communities and to advocate and access more resources for immunization campaigns. These were run by the Ministry of Public Health, with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

He also took part in City Council meetings led by District Health Officers. All these help him to raise demand for Covid-19 vaccines in local communities. From the trainings, Jean Calvin and other Community leaders learned to work more closely in their communities, giving talks on Covid-19 and the need for vaccination in local markets and public spaces.

They visited families to speak intimately with them thanks to the training. They have also given talks to local associations and worked with local media, as well as have worked with religious leaders and local government authorities on spreading prevention messages, as they are trusted and people listen to them.

These days, this Community leader only use information from trustworthy sources, including information from the government, WHO and front his own life experience to convince locals on the need to be vaccinated. This strategy has highly boosted vaccination in local communities just within a short while.

To him, if the government focuses on spreading the right information, then more Cameroonians will certainly be vaccinated, leading to the curbing of the covid-19 pandemic. 

It is worth recalling here that the World Bank is investing nearly 150 Fcfabillion in decentralized communities of Cameroon. The information was revealed by the Vice-President of the World Bank for Central and West Africa, Mr. Ousmane Diagana, during his recent official visit to Cameroon. 

Ingrid KENGNE

Article publié en premier surECHOS SANTE

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