As we mark World Immunisation Week, Dr (Col) Kumud Mohan Rai, Founder-Chairman, ECHO India and Director, Vascular Surgery, Max Superspeciality Hospital, Saket New Delhi explains how NGOs like ECHO can amplify public health messages to reduce vaccine hesitancy
In the last three months, vaccine hesitancy has been one of the major causes for the low number of people immunised against COVID-19 in India. All stakeholders need to work closely to overcome this. NGOs can help amplify the messages of public health authorities effectively. They can also help train the immunisation workforce virtually using videoconferencing / digital platforms. This training could include safe transportation and storage of vaccines, adherence to vaccination schedule, and managing and reporting of adverse effects, if any.
The ECHO model of tele-mentoring is used worldwide to build capacities of healthcare professionals by connecting a hub of experts with spokes via tele-conferencing. ECHO India is one of the official partners of the Central Government for dissemination of knowledge related to COVID-19-19 immunisation. So far, more than 130,000 healthcare workers have been trained on the ECHO platform.
Improving access to vaccines through more investments
Supporting a vaccination programme at this gigantic scale can only be done by the national Government, as seen in US and European countries. NGOs can approach Individual philanthropic funders and donor Institutions and request them for funding for vaccination projects in defined geographies in the country, or for their own vaccination support programs.
Highlighting adult vaccinations as well
Unlike child vaccination, adult immunisation is always a challenge; the (lack of) adoption of Influenza vaccine in India is an example. However, for a potentially fatal illness which is rampaging across the country, if the right message is put across, acceptance and adoption by the public is easier. The advantages of vaccination need to be clearly elucidated and reinforced to the lay public; also the myths and disinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccination needs to be dispelled. This can be done by webinars, focused group discussions, and interactive Q&A sessions by experts – facilitated by all the above-mentioned stakeholders.