Somalia received 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the international COVAX vaccine initiative and 200,000 Sinopharm through donation by China in March and April 2021 respectively. The government said only priority groups will be vaccinated first. These include health workers, the older population and the most vulnerable groups.
As Somalia deploys its first doses of COVID-19 vaccination, new challenges emerge. First, a conflict context with unstable and contested authority has allowed misinformation, hesitancy and resistance to rise rapidly. Second, limited continental access to vaccines makes Somalia more disadvantaged. Third, limited or lack of targeted communication approaches on vaccine safety and availability in a highly oral society.
SMS poll to Africa’s Voices’ engaged participants in Somalia
13-15 May 2021
Africa’s Voices sent a question via SMS to participants from its flagship programme in Somalia, Imaqal – (“Listen to me”) – to get an understanding of the attitudes towards vaccination among Imaqal’s participants in Somalia. Africa’s Voices reached out via SMS to the 6,000 cohort of Imaqal audience with the following question:
980 responded (approximately 16%) with over 1,100 SMS received. The sample was self-selecting, and skewed towards youthful urban populations.
All participants who texted in response to the poll automatically received a series of SMS from AVF which: Provided basic information on the vaccine roll-out plans; reassured participants of the safety and efficiency of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine; and encouraged participants to follow the prevention guidelines as only certain groups in the population are prioritised first.
With this information AVF and other organizations in Somalia can begin to formulate effective public campaigns on the availability, safety and importance of vaccines that includes working with and through religion as the dominant community framing of COVID-19, and deploy empathetic engaging content, using accessible, trusted and meaningful communication channels. We also need to leverage the positive voices, particularly from Somali women, to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.
Photos by Africa Development Bank Group