LRCS tackles men’s vaccine hesitancy



MASERU – With so much misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines readily available for widespread consumption in the recent past, convincing people, especially men, to vaccinate continues proved to be a mammoth challenge.

Even though there has been hope that the availability of Covid-19 vaccines would bring change, vaccine hesitancy is said to remain a great concern. Men have a strong belief that accurate information is critical and can help stop myths and rumours, but sometimes it becomes difficult to know which sources of information can be trusted, especially when other people live very far in hard-to-reach rural areas where little or no information is received.

It is because of this reality that the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) male engagement team held a community feedback session in Mapheleng, Ha Hlapalimane and Thifa in the Qacha’s Nek district, where they discovered that more men are still not vaccinated and not willing to vaccinate due to misinformation that has been circulating on social media. LRCS, in partnership with UNICEF, are currently running a programme, Men Engagement, which was first implemented in July 2022 and is scheduled to end in July.

The project officer, Mookho Mafereka, says they engage men because their involvement is also critical for successful immunisation and to improve vaccines coverage.

She said men indicated that due to the attitude of health care professionals which is unsatisfactory, they cannot go to health facility for vaccination.  She added that others indicated that due to long queues at the health facilities, they cannot wait for long hours, when no one is looking after their animals at home. As a result, they end up not seeing vaccines as important.

To dispel these myths, Mafereka said they work with health workers who give out correct information on vaccines to address and correct the rumours.

According to the society, the male engagement programme is aimed at strengthening reduction of Covid-19 infections, prevention control and vaccination in community structures as well as male engagement comprised initiations, soccer, church male forums, policing male forums, school board, village health workers and traditional healers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that vaccine hesitancy, which embodies the unwillingness to receive vaccines when vaccination services are available and accessible, is one of the threats to global health.

The organisation also notes that people who refuse or delay vaccines for themselves or their children are presenting a growing challenge for countries seeking to close the immunisation gap.

WHO further says vaccines can only improve health and prevent deaths if they are used, and immunisation programmes must be able to achieve and sustain high vaccine uptake rates.

“Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy will pose substantial risks for both people who delay or refuse to be vaccinated and the wider community, making communities unable to reach herd immunity against Covid-19, thus unnecessarily perpetuating the pandemic and resulting in untold suffering and deaths,” WHO explains.  

The recommendations proposed by WHO aim to increase the understanding of vaccine hesitancy, its determinants and challenges. They also suggest ways organisations can increase acceptance of vaccines, share effective practices and develop new tools to access and address hesitancy. WHO highlights: “Effective communication is key to dispelling fears, addressing concerns and promoting acceptance of vaccination.”

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