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By: Lunga Memela (HST Communications Engagement Lead)
Happy smiles from USAID, HST and DramAidE partners during a Global VAX campaign site visit at Menzi High School in uMlazi Township's N Section.
The Health Systems Trust's (HST) project team that is subcontracted by Right to Care (RTC) for Accelerating Development Against Pandemic Threats (ADAPT) is proud to have participated in RTC's hosting of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Global Health Security Officer, Karen Coldwell, joined by Alexis Olson, a Consultant at Panagora. They did a site visit at the end of February 2023 to uMlazi Township's N Section, where USAID's Global VAX campaign is being successfully rolled out.
In 2022, following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States committed to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, introducing the Global VAX campaign: A new initiative for global vaccine access to accelerate U.S. vaccine delivery assistance around the world.
HST's ADAPT Acting Project Manager, Udaya Veeramachaneni (on the left next to the visitors, Karen Coldwell and Alexis Olson) said: "The aim of the project is to vaccinate 70% of the eligible population in identified provinces and districts. The program is multi-faceted and focuses on improving vaccine uptake through community mobilisation done in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal's DramAidE. HST was subcontracted by Right to Care in October 2022 to provide direct service delivery (DsD) and technical assistance (TA) to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (KZN DoH), particularly in the eThekwini South sub-district as well as in Zululand's Ulundi, Nongoma, Pongola and Abaqulusi sub-districts."
The Global VAX campaign is significant in the local context as it aims to:
The site visit kicked off at Menzi High School in uMlazi N section, which is situated next to Phila Ndwandwe N Clinic – a perfect vaccination site for vaccinating young people aged 12 to 17, and again, at the neighbouring sports ground, reaching out to community members aged 18-14, 35-49 and 50-59 through the mobilisation strategy. HST's ADAPT project team has also engaged several other schools such as Zwelihle Senior Secondary, where school-going youth can be vaccinated with consent from their parents.
HST's DO ART Community Co-ordinator, Dr Douglas Ngcobo (left) and HST's ADAPT Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Siyabonga Pupuma (right) said there is a serious need to debunk myths and misconceptions associated with COVID-19 vaccines. The project team works in good synergy with partners and community leaders to ensure vaccine uptake. Ngcobo and Pupuma agreed that such outreach initiatives play a massive role in raising health awareness and promoting overall wellness for community members, young and old.
"Our teams are trained in social marketing, health promotion and facilitation skills," said Xoliswa Ngema and Nqobile Mthiyane (pictured above). "We love what we do. We mobilise the communities to come get vaccinated through loud-hailing, door-to-door activations, clinic talk, we do one-on-one motivations, school visits and promote the availability and access to integrated services, especially amongst the youth and the elderly. We do this at facility level, selected sites and via HST's mobile units. What is also important is to convince the youth that they should not think their immune system is strong enough to not get infected with COVID-19. The notion that they must receive incentives to get vaccinated is dangerous!"
HST Nurse-clinician, Sister Penelope Ngidi, talks the visiting delegation through the vaccination process at Menzi High School.
Coldwell said that it is impressive to see the innovative partnership that has emanated between Right to Care, DoH, HST and DramAidE. "Another highlight was seeing the synergy between schools, community leaders, and facilities in integrating immunisation with primary health care services. We come down to learn about any challenges faced by the teams, to adopt best practices, find ways of globalising support, and to brainstorm ways to strengthen the project. So far, so good!"
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