Vaccination is one of the most effective public health interventions today. However, there is a growing number of people who perceive vaccines as unsafe and unnecessary. Vaccine hesitancy has mostly been attributed to decreasing vaccination coverage and increased risk of vaccine-preventable outbreaks. In her public engagement project 'Building confidence on maternal vaccination by addressing risk perceptions using community theatre in rural Kilifi, Kenya,' Patience Kiyuka and her team conducted a mixed-methods survey with men and women of reproductive age as well as focus group discussions with expectant mothers and discussions with key informants on maternal vaccine hesitancy within a rural setting of Kilifi County, Kenya. The information gathered was used to produce a play that was staged in open community spaces andto create a radio drama that was aired on two local radio stations.
Of the 104 people surveyed, 94% reported that they had heard of vaccines before; however, only 70% knew which vaccines expectant mothers receive. 27% stated that they knew people in their community who had refused or were hesitant to take a maternal vaccine. The main reasons given for refusals included religious believes and rumours that the maternal vaccine was a family planning method. The community play was produced to capture community concerns while addressing misinformation around vaccination. It was observed that the play offered an entertaining platform while educating community members on the importance of maternal vaccination. Producing and airing the radio drama on local radio stations offered an opportunity for listeners to call in and ask the researchers about different issues they needed to be clarified.
The availability of safe and effective maternal vaccines will only be beneficial if mothers choose to use them. The project has demonstrated that dissemination of accurate information and continuous engagement with the community members can build trust and confidence in vaccines.
Dr Chris Gale from Imperial College London provided new insights about the impact of COVID-19 on the health of neonates in a webinar organised by IMPRINT.