Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) received funding support from The Rockefeller Foundation through Amref Health Africa to increase demand and access to COVID-19 vaccination in Wakiso district. Specifically, the project is being implemented in Busiro South and Busiro East Health Sub Districts (HSDs) in Wakiso in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wakiso District Local Government. As part of the project start-up activities, MakSPH organized an inception workshop which took place on 9th November 2022 at Piato Restaurant in Kampala. The workshop brought together over 60 key stakeholders who discussed strategies for implementing planned project activities. The workshop participants included: Ministry of Health officials, Wakiso District Health team, in-charges of health facilities, Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) focal persons, Health Information Assistants (HIAs), Village Health Team (VHT) coordinators, and project staff from MakSPH.
During the workshop, Mr. Ali Halage from the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health who represented MakSPH welcomed participants. In his remarks, Mr. Halage appreciated the funders (The Rockefeller Foundation and Amref Health Africa) and other stakeholders including Wakiso District Local Government, Ministry of Health, healthcare workers, and VHTs who were present. He also shared some factors that limited uptake of vaccination including poor facilitation of health workers, and misconceptions and misinformation about the vaccine among community members. Dr. David Musoke, the project Principal Investigator, presented the project aims and objectives after sharing a background to previous work done by MakSPH in Wakiso district. Dr. Musoke also shared how previous initiatives in the district had informed the design of the new COVID-19 vaccination project.
From the Wakiso District Health team, the District Health Officer, Dr. Mathias Lugoloobi and the District Health Educator, Ms. Bonny Natukunda thanked MakSPH for its committed community service in Wakiso district. They also called upon fellow health workers to take up active roles in project implementation, and to use strategies that have been proven to work such as: integration of COVID-19 vaccination into routine immunization; multisectoral engagement; conducting vaccination campaigns; rumor tracking in the community; feedback mechanisms from the community to key stakeholders; strong social mobilization; as well as developing and maintaining a database for VHTs. Dr. Lugoloobi also emphasized the need for sufficient planning prior to commencement of project activities.
In an interactive session where participants broke out in 3 groups to discuss and present strategies to increase the demand and access to COVID-19 vaccination particularly during community outreaches, as well as the main challenges affecting COVID-19 vaccination data management, the following were highlighted:
Strategies to increase COVID-19 vaccine coverage included;
1) Carrying out community dialogues,
2) Increasing vaccine awareness among the population,
3) Integrating COVID-19 vaccination in routine immunization,
4) Involving various political leaders in the communities,
5) Carrying out extensive vaccination mobilization campaigns
6) Providing data and airtime to the health workers,
7) Advocacy and social mobilization,
8) Timely planning,
9) Actively involving school leaders, and
10) Utilizing COVID-19 vaccination champions.
Challenges reported in data management for COVID vaccination included
1) Late submission of vaccination records,
2) Poor handwriting which makes data entry tedious,
3) Lack of airtime and internet bundles that hinders timely submission of data,
4) Inadequate tools for data collection and entry, 5) Complex data entry forms,
6) Lengthy procedures of data entry,
7) Inadequate training and supervision of data management staff, and
8) Limited centres for scanning COVID-19 vaccination records.
The deliberations from the workshop are to be used to further inform the planning and delivery of interventions of the project to increase demand and access to COVID-19 vaccination in Wakiso district.
Compiled by Paineto Masengere and Allan Sembuusi