Delivering accurate COVID-19 vaccine information

When leading Friday prayers, Imam Sheikh Omar Dagane urges his congregation in Garissa, Kenya, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“As the imam of this community, it is my responsibility to advise the people on anything that relates to their welfare,” Dagane told the Star newspaper. Dagane is one of the religious leaders who partner with UNICEF in Kenya to deliver accurate COVID-19 vaccine information. “Today, I spoke to my congregation about preventing COVID-19 by taking the vaccine.”

The U.S. government, UNICEF and other partner organizations are ensuring people everywhere know COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Methods of educating people on vaccine safety range from partnering with religious and community leaders, like Dagane, to broadcasting accurate information over the radio or from loudspeakers on motorbikes and boats, as in Brazil.

These efforts complement President Biden’s pledge for the United States to serve as an arsenal of vaccines for the world. The United States has committed to share 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world. Most doses are being delivered through COVAX, the international partnership dedicated to equitably distributing vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions of doses have been safely administered.

Yet a May 2021 Gallup poll found more than 1 billion people worldwide are hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The reasons vary from concerns about rare side effects to belief in false rumors about the vaccines.

To counter misinformation, the United States and partners use several means to educate people around the world on COVID-19 vaccine safety, including:

  • Training over 2,000 volunteers in Tajikistan to counter vaccine misinformation, with messaging that reaches more than 1 million people.
  • Printing 326,000 posters and brochures in Zambia in seven local languages and going door-to-door to deliver materials.
  • Equipping boats and motorcycles in Brazil with loudspeakers to spread vaccine messaging and also broadcasting through radio and social media campaigns.
  • Running campaigns to encourage vaccinations in Libya.
Two men in medical masks and robes standing by carved wooden doors outside dark room (© UNICEF Kenya/Lameck Orina)
Isak Abdi (left) discusses his concerns about vaccination with Sheikh Omar Dagane (right). (© UNICEF Kenya/Lameck Orina)

These efforts have shown positive results. USAID Administrator Samantha Power told the Group of Seven Foreign and Development Ministerial Meeting December 12 that, “In Cameroon, for example, our support helped enable a major national vaccination campaign that hit the airwaves, posted billboards, and handed out fliers, and led to a reported 100-fold increase in the rate of daily vaccinations.”

In Kenya, where UNICEF and local partners have turned 280 houses of worship into vaccination sites, those who have received vaccines are encouraging others to similarly protect themselves.

“Now that I have been vaccinated, I feel protected and safer,” Lucy Ndwinga, an English teacher in Garissa told the Star. “I am urging all the other teachers to come and get the COVID-19 vaccine, so that we can protect ourselves from this disease and go back to our normal lives.”