SOCIAL and healthcare workers in the Kunene region say convincing rural communities to get vaccinated against Covid-19 is a challenge as many believe they will die if they are vaccinated.
The vaccination drive in Kunene's rural areas has taken a hit because community members are hesitant to get vaccinated against the virus, due to a number of myths and false information being spread within communities.
Elina Munkawa, a senior social worker at the Ministry of Health and Social Services, stationed at Opuwo told The Namibian that many people, especially those in the rural areas, are hesitant to get vaccinated because they believe the virus reduces immunity, makes one sterile and, in worst cases, kills you.
"There is a lot of misinformation doing the rounds in the communities, which hinders people from getting vaccinated. It's sad to note. Many people are now refusing to get vaccinated because they are fed false information and they believe that the vaccine is deadly, which is not true at all. We have tried to convince and encourage community members to get vaccinated but many people are not ready," she says.
Mankawa believes many people in the rural areas are still not aware of the benefits of the vaccination.
"Many people in Opuwo district are not willing to get vaccinated compared to those in other districts. Outjo and Khorixas districts have recorded a higher number of people vaccinated against Covid-19. The hesitancy is mostly higher in people aged 45 and older," she says.
In order to counter vaccine hesitancy, Munkawa maintains that the ministry will get their local leaders on board in an effort to convince more villagers to get vaccinated.
"We are planning on engaging with the village headmen, constituency councillors and pastors to come on board because we have realised that community members listen to them more than to us. We want our community leaders to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy with community members. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is very important because if people are vaccinated, it strengthens the message that the vaccine is safe," she says.
She further urges community members to approach healthcare centres on time when feeling sick in order to get treated promptly to avoid possible death.
Kunene health director Thomas Shapumba could not be reached for comment.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula recently noted with concern that misinformation and disinformation circulated on social media platforms was leading to vaccine hesitancy and infected people who resort to home remedies.
Shangula says the ministry has observed a low vaccination uptake in the northern regions, a situation he describes as worrisome.