World immunization week was held in April 2023, and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) in 28 Counties set out to call for the uptake of the COVID-19 Vaccine. The counties included Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kiambu, Siaya, Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Kisumu, Nyamira, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Nairobi, Lamu, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu, Bomet, Narok, Taita Taveta and Elgeyo Marakwet.
The IRCK through county-level Religious Leaders using different platforms collaborating with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF held a two-day strategy-planning meeting with religious leaders to discuss the Covid-19 vaccination, other emerging diseases and health issues. They launched a campaign calling upon all people vaccinated and unvaccinated to embrace the jab in their places of worship and community. The health officials shared county facts about COVID-19 vaccination and other immunizations status. Religious Leaders were sensitized to the need to utilize their influence in society to continue mobilizing their congregants and other community members to embrace the COVID-19 vaccine and other routine immunizations. Religious leaders shared experiences, successes, challenges on emerging health issues affecting their counties and opportunities for social mobilization for Covid-19 vaccination. The Ministry of Health provided an update on the status and trends of Covid-19 and a roadmap on how vaccination drives can be undertaken and places of worship used as vaccination centres. Religious Leaders were able to develop strategies for social mobilization and engagement in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
In 2019, the outbreak of Coronavirus disease had devastating impacts on world populations. As a way of combatting the spread and mitigating the challenges associated with the pandemic, it forced countries to adopt some of the most drastic measures such as the imposition of total and partial lockdowns of cities and hardly hit regions, due to its person-to-person spread nature. In Kenya, the government initiated some of the most stringent measures to lower the spread and mortalities in the country. The measures bore fruits, it reduced morbidities and mortalities related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the measures reducing the spread of Covid-19, it had adverse economic impacts, which negatively affected the Kenyan populace. Some of the other sectors were badly affected including education since schools were temporarily closed; places of worship such as churches, mosques and temples were temporarily closed down. The Ministry of Health data reveals that Covid-19 vaccination uptake is still low in various counties. Many Kenyans have not taken the Covid-19 vaccine and this reverses the gains made in the fight against the pandemic. Thus the involvement of Religious leaders as they have a unique influence and platforms in society and can help in encouraging the unvaccinated to take the jab. In the past, religious leaders have also demystified obstacles that hinder people from taking the jab.
Religious Leaders led in the uptake of the vaccine as they mobilized their congregants in various places such as markets, county streets, and vernacular stations calling for the uptake of the vaccine. Other interventions proposed were effective messaging through trusted sources such as health departments, religious leaders, local CSOs and NGOs, and law enforcement officers. They also proposed to embrace social mobilization in places of worship, schools, and workplaces.
Religious leaders committed to mobilising their congregants and community members to embrace the Covid-19 vaccines as they renewed religious leaders’ efforts towards making places of worship as vaccination centres.
By Mary N.