This week the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Team at the Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Australian Government through the Vanuatu Health Program held a series of advocacy consultations about COVID-19 vaccination with public health partners, Vanuatu National Youth, Vanuatu National Council of Women and Vanuatu Christian Council.

At the public health partners advocacy consultation over 60 people attended from the Vanuatu Red Cross Society, Wan Smolbag Theatre, Port Vila City Council, Port Vila Central Ward, Shefa Provincial Health, Save the Children and Ministry of Health.

The MoH continues to engage with critical community leaders and organisations to prepare communities for the rollout of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Public health partners based in Port Vila were among the first groups to participate in an awareness session to better facilitate the vaccination process of frontline workers living on Efate and off-shore Island.

Jean-Jacques Rory, Manager of the Health Promotion Unit at the Ministry of Health thanked the participants for their attendance and their support to rollout the vaccine.

“The Ministry of Health has always been very appreciative of your support to deliver critical public health messages to our communities. As Vanuatu faces an unprecedent risk of a highly infectious disease, we are calling on your leadership towards your communities to ensure a peaceful and successful rollout of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine”, said Manager Rory.

UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) representatives provided accurate information about the situation of COVID-19 in the world and introduced WHO-certified COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.

“The COVID-19 virus is highly infectious and is the origin of over 3 million people’s death worldwide to date. The rollout of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is the safest option available for Vanuatu to protect its communities,” said Philippe Guyant, WHO representative.

The Health Promotion Unit (HPU) Team introduced the MoH national communications plan to ensure most of Vanuatu people receive accurate information about the vaccination program. This will be implemented in different phases. The first phase is focusing on a series of face-to-face advocacy consultations with key groups and national organisations. Provincial Health Teams will attend a training the trainers to be skilled to deliver awareness sessions within their provinces. RCCE will also launch a national campaign.

HPU personnel distributed Frequent Asked Questions (FAQs) document to equip participants, community leaders and public health partners with clear and accurate information about COVID-19 disease, COVID-19 vaccine, and AstraZeneca vaccine. This provides community leaders with answers to respond to community’s concerns. HPU Team is also referring to official sources to receive reliable information about COVID-19. This includes Health Promotions Vanuatu Facebook page, and websites from the Ministry of Health www.COVID19.gov.vu and from WHO, www.who.int.

Several community leaders and representatives of national organisations have already expressed their strong support to the Ministry of Health to help rollout the vaccination program.

“My community lives in Seaside Tongoa which is close to resorts and to the Vila Central Hospital. If the virus arrives in Vanuatu, they would be very exposed. As a Chief and Chairman of Port Vila Central Ward, I must think of for their own safety first. I am in favour of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” said Chief Paul Fred.

The HPU Team also had similar consultations with Vanuatu National Council of Women, Vanuatu National Council of Youths, Vanuatu Christian Council and a meeting with Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs Executives and staff to prepare next week meeting with national chiefs.

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