When Cote d’Ivoire set to drive up COVID-19 uptake, a three-week mass vaccination campaign in February saw over 2 million people vaccinated, yielding an 8% rise in the number of people fully vaccinated. In a country with less than 20% vaccine coverage, the increase realized in a matter of weeks marks a significant progress.
COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been on the rise in Cote d’Ivoire since its first mass vaccination campaign in December 2021. Vaccinations have more than doubled from 4.8 million doses administered at the end of December 2021 to 10.1 million by mid-March 2022.The country is one of the first African countries to receive the COVAX Facility vaccine shipments last year.—.
Tailored and targeted mass vaccination campaigns will continue at through 2022, as the country races towards its national target of fully vaccinating 70% of its population. Early lessons reported by the multi-partner country support teams show that mass vaccination campaigns, coupled with strong community engagement enable countries to reach large numbers of people quickly. Countries that couple mass vaccination campaigns with political commitment and strong leadership at all levels produce good results.
In Cote d’Ivoire, national and local political leaders, religious and community leaders, as well as the media and selected public figures and social network influencers are being sensitized to the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 and encouraged to lead by example. In addition, World Health Organization (WHO) in Cote d’Ivoire has tapped into its network of 160 radio partners to relay messages, producing interactive public awareness programmes by inviting influential community members, including traditional and religious leaders, civil servants and teachers. WHO has also reallocated nearly 40 consultants originally recruited for polio control to the fight against COVID-19.
“We have managed to mobilise religious and community leaders, but above all we have benefited from the commitment of the authorities at the highest level,” says Professor Joseph Bénié Bi Vroh, Director General of the National Institute of Public Hygiene, the structure in charge of the vaccination against COVID-19. “We have been able to adapt our vaccination strategies to reach out to the population.”
Côte d’Ivoire plans to fully vaccinate 70% of its adult population by giving priority to people who are either at the frontline of the COVID-19 response or at high risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death because of COVID-19 infection.
“When I saw the vaccination campaign, I was convinced that the vaccine was safe and that it is better to prevent than to cure,” says Johan Ake, at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s commercial capital.
African countries have faced several structural challenges in expanding vaccination coverage. Countries have not planned adequately for vaccination at the district level and there has been a lack of predictable and stable funding, and mechanisms to ensure that funding is sent from the national level to the local level in time to fund vaccine delivery. Health workers are experiencing fatigue towards COVID-19 vaccination and the short shelf life of COVID-19 vaccines has put pressure on delivery strategies and systems amid low demand.
To address these operational and financial bottlenecks, multi-partner country support teams from WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, World Bank, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and others have been deployed to 20 priority countries in Africa, including Cote d’Ivoire. The country support team is currently assisting the Ministry of Health with logistics planning, financing and risk communication and community engagement activities to run regular mass vaccination campaigns.
“The health authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have been able to mobilise opinion leaders and adapt their vaccination strategies to the changing context. With a strengthened effort from all public health actors, we are confident that the country will be able to reach its vaccination targets in 2022 and thus protect its population against COVID-19,” said Dr Jean Marie Yameogo, WHO Representative in Cote d’Ivoire.
The next COVID-19 mass vaccination drive will be from 25 March till 3 April 2022.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization – Ivory Coast.