FAITH leaders are critical partners in addressing many known barriers to the uptake of health and other essential services, including vaccines.
Oct. 12, 2021
4 min read
Faith leaders engaged to combat Covid
- WHO, churches partner to bring vaccination services to people
- Health ministry out to end myths, theories about vaccines
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Vaccine misinformation and misconceptions have also been a major barrier to the uptake across the globe, where false messaging and conspiracy theories discouraging the public from getting vaccinated are spreading rampantly on social and mobile media platforms.
In a bid to leverage support for the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and recovery, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in partnership with the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) held a two-day dialogue meeting over the past weekend, with religious leaders from Mohale's Hoek and Quthing.
According to Baroane Phenethi from the Ministry of Health, globally, several myths and rumours have arisen since the announcement of successful vaccine candidates to combat COVID-19.
He said with each myth comes an additional layer of challenges towards minimising the transmission and the further spread of COVID-19 and increasing the vaccine uptake.
The religious leaders also noted with concern that the spread of too much-unfiltered information and misinformation has undermined people’s trust in the COVID-19 vaccines.
The faith leaders who attended the workshop endorsed the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and pledged to play an active role in boosting community trust in the science behind COVID-19 vaccines and enlisting their communities to join the efforts to end COVID-19.
Reverend Moloantoa Noko of Assemblies of God Church in Moeaneng, Mohale’s Hoek, said it is their duty to help spread the word about the importance of getting vaccinated and working together in communities to beat COVID-19.
The more people receive the vaccine, he said the safer their people will all be.
Rev Noko said since the vaccination programme began in March, it is also their duty to encourage their congregants to vaccinate and save lives that could otherwise be lost due to COVID-19.
In Mohale’s Hoek, they have also allowed the ministry to use their church facilities as a vaccination centre.
The district Environmental Officer, ’Mathabo Mafatlane said they are doing this because most Basotho are Christians and are not always available during the week, so they take vaccination services to the churches to reach the congregants.
She said from the past week when they visited the Mohale’s Hoek LECSA in Matsatsaneng and Mesitsaneng as well as the New Jerusalem church, a total of 33 people were vaccinated.
In Quthing, the leaders agreed to model and promote positive attitudes and behaviours towards vaccinations, articulate trust, correct inaccurate information, engage followers to address faith-related barriers and help congregants to understand how vaccines work.
They pledged to have a group of people identified to monitor health issues in church, encourage church members to vaccinate and continue advising them to take safety precautions.
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They have also promised to extend teachings to non-church member communities and above all, to fight myths and misinformation while also including non CCL churches to be part of the activities.
Vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by myths and false information, is particularly concerning in the country, which has had its own share of viral outbreaks and resistance to prior vaccination efforts.
WHO has detailed the need to increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination.
It surveyed more than half of the country including Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea, Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Qacha’s Nek, Mohale's Hoek and Quthing.
These workshops aim to impart knowledge to religious leaders as they play a crucial role in community mobilisation, raising awareness, dispelling myths and misconceptions, boosting vaccine acceptance and bringing compromises where public health measures are considered to be discordant with religious values.