The United States Agency for International Development has awarded the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs an additional $10 million for work in a dozen countries in Africa and Asia to promote the use of COVID-19 vaccines to help bring the pandemic to an end.
Over the next year, the CCP-led Breakthrough ACTION project will use the new funds to target people who have had just one dose of vaccine, the unvaccinated and specific groups of unvaccinated people – including school children and pregnant women – to help them receive a safe and effective vaccine.
In many countries, where a lack of vaccine was a large barrier, vaccines are now more available, and the messaging needs to reflect that and overcome any other obstacles that are preventing people from being more widely vaccinated.
“Breakthrough ACTION teams in concert with local governments and partners are focusing on understanding people’s beliefs and attitudes about vaccination to help speak to them directly with messages that will resonate,” says Alice Payne Merritt, MPH, CCP’s deputy director who leads the center’s COVID-19 portfolio. “We need to emphasize where and how to access vaccines and highlight the benefits of being vaccinated, either with a first dose or a second one.”
The new funds will be used in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, the Philippines and Senegal. This brings to $33 million the total that USAID has awarded to CCP for COVID-related work.
CCP has been working to promote COVID prevention since March 2020, soon after the start of the pandemic. Since the beginning, COVID-19 has sickened nearly 440 million people globally and killed nearly 6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, more than 4.94 billion people worldwide have received at least a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, equal to about 64.4 percent of the world’s population. But much of Africa lags far behind, with many countries vaccinating fewer than 20 percent of their population so far. CCP hopes its work can help improve the vaccine situation.
“We are excited for this opportunity to keep building on our work with countries around the world to address the ever-changing needs brought about by the pandemic,” says CCP’s Elizabeth Serlemitsos, MBA, MPH, director of the Breakthrough ACTION project.
“This funding from USAID and the American Rescue Plan Act allows us to continue efforts to encourage and enable people to get vaccinated. We will also continue to collaborate with partners in risk communication and community engagement to address potential surges from new viral variants. We are in an excellent place to apply learnings from prior phases of COVID-19 activities and keep working with the public and private sectors to keep communities safe and informed.”