By Mike Mataka:
As Malawians are eagerly waiting for the arrival of the first batch of Covid vaccine, World Vision Malawi (VWM) has weighed in on the issue, saying the engagement of faith leaders could prove to be the ice-breaker between pessimists and optimists.
Recently, Presidential Taskforce on Covid co- Chairperson Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda and Information Minister Gospel Kazako, who is a member of the taskforce, dispelled the notion that the vaccine is unsafe, as peddled by some quarters.
On Sunday, President Lazarus Chakwera said the batch for healthcare workers was on its way to Malawi, albeit there would be a week-long delay due to logistical issues.
In the latest development on the issue of vaccine, WVM has said a multi-sectoral approach would be key to addressing problems associated with misconceptions on Covid vaccines. It cites religious leaders as a key player in vaccine rollout.
In a statement, WVM Officer-in-Charge Catherine Omenda says, even though Malawi is yet to start implementing its vaccine programme, it is fundamental to deal with myths and misconceptions associated with Covid vaccines for the programme to be a success.
The statement indicates that results of a World Vision-commissioned survey in six countries indicate that there are some pockets of resistance.
In Bangladesh, for example, 38 percent of the respondents reported not intending to take the vaccine due to lack of trust and/or little knowledge about it.
They, however, indicated that they would reconsider their position if the idea to get vaccinated emanated from a health practitioner or faith leader.
Based on the outcome of the research, which has been affirmed by IPSOS— a research group— at the World Economic Forum, WVM wants Malawian officials to include faith leaders in their vaccine rollout programme.
“Faith leaders have social capital and understand underlying norms and behaviours. They are generally well-connected within their communities. They have the opportunity to address and engage with contextual barriers, promote sharing of accurate information and ensure individuals and families have the information they need to make decisions about the vaccine,” the statement reads
Omenda further indicates, in the statement, that it would also be important to pay attention to issues such as equitable distribution of the vaccine at the national level so that everyone, regardless of their economic status, ethnicity, level of education, gender, religion, can access it.
It faults most countries for overlooking other key groups, among them refugees. It says, for instance, that only half of the countries with Covid vaccination strategies have included refugees in their plans.
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