For three weeks ending in October, vaccine caravans spread out across Mozambique with a mission: Giving adolescents ages 12 to 17 the opportunity to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The mobile vaccination units brought with them not just doses to vaccinate young people who hadn’t already been vaccinated, but a party atmosphere to get everyone excited about taking an important step toward being protected from COVID-19.
The caravans, whose objectives are centered on increasing the acceptance of COVID vaccination and making those vaccines possible, rolled into markets and bus stops with a stage, a booming sound system and giant video screens to entertain and educate the large crowds that gathered.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs-led Breakthrough ACTION project is one of the groups supporting the vaccine caravans, an initiative of the Ministry of Health. USAID directly supports the implementation of the caravans in 32 districts in six provinces, which also count on the participation of local and national level influencers to mobilize communities and spread messages.
“We are impressed with the levels of vaccination coverage achieved both inside and outside schools,” says Leonildo Nhampossa, head of the Extended Vaccination Program at Mozambique’s Ministry of Health. “The Ministry of Health has been using a combination of strategies to ensure that all adolescents can be vaccinated. In the first dose, we were successful and managed to reach 99.7 percent of the planned goal. Precisely for this reason, for the second round we will maintain our strategies, including in-schools vaccination, as well as mobilization and vaccination through mobile units.”
Ministry of Health statistics show that Mozambique has now successfully given vaccine to nearly 4.8 million adolescents, with about one third of them being vaccinated in the community through events like the caravans.
The next challenge is to get everyone to come back in a month for another shot, which is recommended to be given 28 days after the first. The caravans are charged with generating demand for the second vaccine dose.
Worldwide, seven out of 10 eligible people have had a COVID vaccine. Many barriers, including financial and logistical, have led to low COVID vaccination rates across Africa.