Background: Immunization hesitancy is a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. If people are not engaged appropriately via communication and social mobilization, doubts about the trade-offs between the benefits and potential side effects persist. The objective of this study was to explore strategies for improved social mobilization to reduce immunization hesitancy.
Methods: Mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches was applied to collect data from a diverse group of respondents in Sargodha and Khushab districts. Quantitative data were collected from 329 community health workers, including vaccinators, lady health workers and lady health supervisors, and school health and nutrition supervisors. In addition, qualitative data were collected from top management of Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) through key informant interviews (KIIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with parents. Analysis has been done using SPSS software and detailed transcriptions.
Results: Advocacy meetings with local influencers, community group sessions, door-to-door visits by community health workers and mosque announcements are considered the most relevant and appropriate interventions for social mobilization. Community Health Workers (CHWs), cognizant of local culture, are being trusted, though optimum performance is achievable with adequate redressal of hesitancy concerns. However, in some cases negative attitudes of people towards immunization hinder trust towards mobilizers or CHWs. Hence, they leverage active participation of local influencers, teachers and health department officials to convince such stubborn parents. Active community involvement through leveraging support from local religious and non-religious influencers in social mobilization activities increases its acceptance. Community engagement is most effective in rural and hard-to-reach areas when community health workers are skilled in interpersonal communication and information education communication.
Conclusions: Communication committees as oversight mechanism should be established or reactivated to regularly monitor and support mobilization activities through managing affairs like speedy liaison with local administration and local influencers, mobilizers' service related concerns, community-specific hurdles, and deficiencies of awareness-material provision that eventually improves mobilization performance. Resistant community's needs can be redressed through rigorous conduct of men's and women's education sessions by CHWs while giving more time and space to mobilizers to take on board local religious and non-religious influencers to convince conservative/illiterate parents. Higher management should fix policy implementation slippages like training needs assessment of mobilizers and Civil Society Organizations' involvement framework.
Copyright © 2020 by the Journal of Global Health. All rights reserved.