“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for all eligible populations. Ensure that you complete the recommended dose to fully protect yourself against the disease.”
“Masks are essential in protecting you and your loved ones against COVID-19. Ensure that you have one with you whenever you leave the house.” – Ministry of Health, Kenya.
The Ministry of Health continues to disseminate messages on measures on preventing COVID-19. On 22nd July 2022, the Ministry launched a 10-day mass COVID-19 vaccination drive campaign across the country targeting to have 2.3 million people vaccinated in at least half of the forty-seven Counties. The campaign intended to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccinations in specific places including places of worship, in addition to continued vaccination at existing health facilities.
The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya in partnership with the Ministry of Health, supported by UNICEF joined the COVID-19 vaccination drive in 24 priority Counties with Religious Leaders leading the vaccination drives. Studies have shown that Religious Leaders wield considerable social and political influence on their followers, they have an established network of people and an organizational and physical infrastructure that reaches from national to local and community levels. They also are a trusted source of information; they can sanction certain behaviours or actions among their followers as well as work as allies in dispelling rumours and reducing resistance and promoting correct behaviours through correct theological facts.
In December 2021, IRCK with the technical support of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, APN and World Relief International-Kenya launched the ‘Religious Leaders National COVID-19 Vaccination Drive’, which was graced by over 200 participants. The objective was to express the confidence of Religious Leaders in the COVID-19 vaccines to improve the attitudes and perceptions of faith communities for increased uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines. With this launch, there was a declaration by Religious Leaders to promote and support the COVID-19 vaccines and a signed commitment to collaborate with the Ministry of Health to utilize spaces within places of worship for vaccination services.
With this background, Religious Leaders in the 24 Counties set up to conduct vaccination drives. The County Interfaith Networks committees supported by IRCK convened meetings with the County Health Promotion Officers and the Ministry of Interior including local CSOs to review the status of COVID-19 in the Counties and collectively identify places of worship to be used for vaccination services and schedule vaccination drives at the identified venues.
The Religious Leaders used the congregational model approach to directly mobilize congregational members to take up the COVID-19 vaccines at places of worship including health facilities. Religious Leaders in Baringo, Bungoma, Busia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Embu, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kericho, Kisii, Kitui, Lamu, Meru, Migori, Mombasa Muranga, Nandi, Nyamira, Nyandarua, Samburu, Tharaka Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Turkana and Uasin Gishu led successful campaigns on COVID-19 vaccination drives.
These Religious Leaders led drives saw members of different communities take up vaccines;
Government officials joining to call for the uptake of the vaccines;
The Religious Leaders used different platforms including congregational, media (broadcast and digital) and outdoor campaigns and called on their congregants and devotees to take the COVID-19 vaccine as per the Ministry of Health schedule as access to COVID-19 vaccines is the only way out of this pandemic.
They assured their congregants and devotees that all the vaccines have been tested and approved by the WHO to prevent severe COVID-19 disease. They reminded them that the COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya are safe and effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.
By Mary Ndulili