August 4, 2021: In a joint initiative to strengthen the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines in the region, COMESA in partnership with the African Union – Centre for Disease Control is conducting a two-day experience-sharing webinar for Member States from 4 to 5 August 2021
The event is driven by the need to address the slow uptake of the vaccines by some members States in the region thus necessitating intervention from the regional bodies. The two-day webinar is attended by stakeholders in the health sector led by Permanent Secretaries, health professionals, international partners, civil society organizations, Regional Economic Communities, and media.
Rwanda Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije opened the webinar, which is specifically focused on identifying the reasons and causes of the low uptake, with a view of enhancing the capacity of COMESA Member States to increase COVID-19 vaccine acceptance. It is also aimed at creating public awareness on COVID-19 vaccines.
The minister noted that in some parts of Africa, lack of consistent political engagement to mobilize the population and resources to contain covid-19 has been observed.
“There is a cost to pay in containing the Covid 19. Not doing what is required will cost more. It is a matter of time for this to become obvious for those still undermining the impact of this pandemic,” he said.
Dr Ngamije cited the following as critical in effective containment of the pandemic: strong leadership from the highest level, and a strong coordination; in-country multisectoral collaboration and effective partnerships and regional collaboration.
This is in addition to community engagement using different channels of communication and religious and local authority leaders and media experts, to convince and bring the population to be part of the response to Covid-19.
COMESA Secretary General, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe described the webinar as the first step to encourage Member States to learn from each other, to discuss and adopt strategies to improve vaccine awareness and overcome barriers to vaccine uptake and roll out
“Vaccines remain our most effective tool to achieve immunity and provide a ray of hope that we can return to our ‘normal’ lives. I cannot emphasize the importance of vaccines,” she added.
She noted that despite the challenges faced in accessing vaccines due to limited global supply, most of the Member States have rolled out vaccination campaigns with Seychelles and Mauritius, vaccinating more than 90% and 70% of their populations, respectively.
In his address, the Africa CDC Director, Dr. John Nkengasong stated:
“Vaccines and vaccinations are one of the most effective, and potentially the only, public health instruments to potentially end this COVID-19 pandemic, and our discussions over the next 2 days will go a long way in achieving this and saving lives and livelihoods of citizens of COMESA Member States“. His statement was delivered by his deputy, Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma,
The forum will address among others, vaccine hesitancy, Adverse Event Following Immunization, strategies on vaccine rollout, risk communication and community engagement activities among others. It is expected that following this experience sharing event, there will be strengthened interactions between the COMESA Member States on the COVID-19 response and vaccine uptake.