Community dialogue and engagement helped overcome barriers to vaccination against COVID-19.
On July 1, the Closure and Accountability of the Risk Communication and Community Participation Campaign for vaccination against COVID-19, implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) within the framework of the pandemic, in support of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare of Paraguay. The activity was part of Ciudad Mujer organized by the Ministry of Women in the Bañado Sur area of Asunción.
The results presented on this occasion summarized the work of 7 months, during which UNICEF supported community dialogue to facilitate the expansion of vaccination services against COVID-19.
These actions were coordinated by UNICEF and implemented by Habitat for Humanity Paraguay and the Support Network for Settlements in Central, Alto Paraná and Caaguazú. It involved numerous neighborhood leaders and volunteers so that, through community participation, the barriers that existed for access to vaccination against COVID-19 are overcome.
The most important barriers were: the lack of scientific and simple information, fear of the vaccine against some underlying diseases, rumors about side effects, among others.
Within the framework of these actions, more than 1,450,000 people received timely information to prevent contagion and more than 660,000 people actually agreed to vaccination.
Overcoming barriers through dialogue
The risk communication and participation campaign was supported by UNICEF, and it was proposed to strengthen participatory dialogue with the residents of the neighborhoods visited in Central, Alto Paraná and Caaguazú. The key actors in this dialogue were the 440 community leaders Y 2759 volunteers who formed and gave their time and dedication to the campaign.
Based on risk communication, the referents and volunteers helped to better understand the reality of each community, the myths and fears installed in the population about vaccines, with this knowledge the crews were trained to make a house-to-house tour with timely information and services in order to achieve a greater number of people immunized and informed on the subject of COVID-19. Through a quick poll, more than 1,652 people collaborated in the identification of barriers and objections about vaccines, in order to think about strategies that facilitate vaccination.
Children’s Safe Spaces
During this process, 146 community vaccination spaces were promoted and installed in the neighborhoods in consultation and coordination with community leaders. More of 4,100 girls and boys participated in the Children’s Safe Spaces installed to support their families with information, advice and equipment suitable for children. In this way, it was also possible to promote the regular vaccination schedule for boys and girls.
From these posts installed in the neighborhoods, it was possible to bring the vaccines closer to the families of vulnerable communities in the Capital, Central, Alto Paraná and Caaguazú, and even organize home vaccination for those people who, due to some type of impediment, could not attend the vaccination clinic, guaranteeing thus the right to health of all people.
It should be noted that this UNICEF support campaign for the MSPyBS, in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic, was complemented by other initiatives, such as the delivery of refrigerators for the storage and conservation of vaccines, as well as training for staff of health; in addition to working on the importance of community participation in the vaccination process.