Scepticism about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines and whether it is even necessary to vaccinate against the coronavirus have become hot topics of conversation lately, as vaccination campaigns intensify in different parts of the world.
Warnings about possible blood clots brought more fear and worry, while conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines continue to rage.
But authorities in Cape Town have now launched an awareness campaign to debunk misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccination — thanks to a multimillion-rand donation by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), which will help cities around the world to reach vulnerable groups, including transgender people and the homeless.
Cape Town is one of 18 cities that have benefited from the $900,000 (about R12.73m) grant that’s been distributed to different cities across the world to support equitable vaccine planning and rollout, including Guadalajara in Mexico, Fortaleza in Brazil, Harare in Zimbabwe, Kampala in Uganda, Kigali in Rwanda and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, among others.
“We simply will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. “These grants will support city leaders to reach some of the most vulnerable groups with vaccines.”
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said the $50,000 (about R707,217) funding that’s been allocated to the city would be used to reach the estimated more than 530,000 people living in shelters for the homeless, those living in the streets and migrants.
The city’s methods will include advertising on minibus taxis, deploying mobile billboards and sky banners. a radio campaign will also be used top fight against misinformation about vaccination. This will be complemented by mobile information and vaccine registration units that will partner with trusted community leaders to optimise messaging and hold socially distanced face-to-face consultations with people in hard-to-reach areas.
“It is important that while our communities have access to health care, they also have access to reliable health information. We want to make sure that our communities are properly informed about Covid-19 vaccination so that they can make well-informed decisions,” said Plato. “We’ve seen the power of working with trusted local voices to share Covid safety messages with vulnerable people earlier in the pandemic, and we plan to build on those efforts to encourage vaccination for all.”
Councillor Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said the vaccine campaign, which addressed vaccine hesitancy and aid in registration for vaccines in vulnerable communities, has already started.
“We are currently communicating with elderly residents to get registered and on the system. It will run for as long as it needs to and we will change the call to action depending on the space in which we find ourselves and the needs of our residents. We are planning communications to advise residents on how to register for the vaccine and how the rollout will work.
“We continue to rely on the city’s medical team and Covid-19 response team to ensure that we are receiving accurate information. We are using a mix of communication channels, both offline and online, to try to reach as many residents as possible. Furthermore, we have a database of religious groups, NGOs, NPOs, small businesses and associations that we will be sharing our Covid-19 vaccine communication with.
“We will be working with our departments that are on the ground making use of some of the workers within the expanded public works programme to distribute communication materials. This funding bolsters and strengthens our response to the pandemic. It allows us to add extra resources which may not previously have been available,” he said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, will tackle a vaccine hesitancy problem among older adults who are unhoused and isolated, using targeted messaging and by training formerly homeless “peer companions” for local outreach.
Rio de Janeiro will use the new funds to reach transgender people who live in the streets or in otherwise high-risk or isolated situations. Teams staffed by transgender people will be trained in communication techniques and enlisted to design a campaign that can reach this population to get them the vaccine and to improve data collection.