Storytelling for vaccine equity and acceptance among the last mile population
This blog was written by Rose Nakame, a registered nurse and the Executive Director of REMI East Africa, a health equity NGO.
I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news that I was among the winners of the Nursing Now Challenge and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s storytelling challenge. For me, this was like someone saying I see you and believe in what could be and that made me get on my knees to thank God.
Most of my nursing career has been in the rural areas of Uganda. It is where I first learned how to inject a person, and conduct health education to families seated on the grass.
When I nursed patients and they were happy, on rare occasions they brought me a live chicken to thank me for my service. To be honest, I was afraid of holding them and would ask a colleague to carry it. And, when they were sad or believed we could have done better, they were honest to the point of talking about it on the pulpit of the week’s Sunday service. They always made me feel the intangible parts of my nursing and love my job.
As more vaccines are donated to and purchased by low-income countries such as Uganda, the focus on vaccine equity between the rich and poor nations reduces. However, on the ground, vaccine inequity and acceptance is being driven by social determinants of health.
The poor, most of them living in rural areas are experiencing vaccine inequity due to the distance they have to trek to access these vaccines and low levels of education to access information to make informed choices. As nurses, we are trusted by the communities that we serve and so we can play a vital role in educating people and ensuring access to vaccines for even the most remote populations.
At REMI East Africa, we are implementing the Storytelling for COVID-19 vaccine equity and acceptance (STOCEA) project.
The STOCEA project is a three-pronged approach in supporting Young Child Clinic nurses and midwives’ leadership in advocating for vaccine equity and acceptance. It has three objectives which are; i) To utilise video storytelling in capturing best vaccine equity and acceptance practices more so those that are pragmatic to the COVID-19 vaccine among registered and intern nurses and midwives, ii) To disseminate captured video stories utilising appropriate tools such as social media, YouTube, blogs, website among relevant stakeholders to inform policy, budgeting, programming and academia over 6 months, and iii) To build partnerships to address challenges related to vaccine equity and acceptance.
The Young Child Clinic nurses and midwives have manned these clinics delivering vaccines at stationary sites such as hospitals and in outreaches; crossing rivers, driving impenetrable and impassable roads to get to the populations. It is in that resilience that we should all look at nurses and midwives to understand what has worked amidst the common challenges of delivering vaccines to rural and hard-to-reach areas to get the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone irrespective of their socio-economic status or geographical location.
As nurses and midwives, we need to tell more stories and utilise this skill as a way to deliver more patient or public centred health care with full cups.
If you believe that our geographical locations; rural or urban and our socio-economic status; rich or poor should not dictate our ease of accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine, then I am inviting you to join us on 15th November this year to attend a knowledge sharing zoom meeting about our experience using storytelling for stronger and resilient health systems.
Register to attend here: https://zoom.us/j/92217474169?pwd=amJIQnJFZXRWckVuaFdrMkZ6aE92UT09
This is about believing that leadership lies in the ability to be vulnerable through our individual stories, allow others to connect with our struggles, learn from them, and collectively contribute to strengthening a health system to save and promote healthier living.