Mobile phone text messaging for improving the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations

The COVID‑19 pandemic has been called the greatest public health challenge of our generation. For months, while thousands of people were infected and 700+ died from this deadly disease, the DRC has awaited a reprieve in the form of effective vaccines. Now that they’re finally starting to roll out, there are many glaring questions and challenges, particularly around misinformation. In Democratic Republic of the Congo, misinformation about vaccines is rampant. It spreads through word of mouth, traditional media and social media—a particularly rich breeding ground for false information.

Expert analysis shows that population resistance to covid-19 vaccines is an additional public health problem in Africa, contributing to increased cases and deaths that are preventable by vaccination. Thus, innovative strategies to rapidly increase coverage and recall rates for vaccinations are urgently required.

One of the biggest obstacles, though, is less tangible: convincing people that vaccines — and those providing them — can be trusted.

How is CERC combating misinformation and helping to build trust in the vaccines?

We are facing a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the COVID-19 Vaccine awareness campaign exceptionally timely. SMS has already been proven to be highly effective for public health communications, including driving vulnerable populations to get vaccinated.

With our “Rumor Tracker” tool, we are collecting citizens opinions about Coronavirus and vaccines via SMS to get a sense of what specific misinformation is out in communities about vaccines, and how people are getting it, and then countering that with accurate information through programmable SMS and Voicemail.

How can SMS help? 

There are a few properties, unique to text messaging, that make it the best option for certain communications during vaccine distribution efforts.

  • Mobile Phone numbers are both a unique identifier and a communication channel via SMS or voice call.
  • Text messaging works extremely well to connect to underserved populations, rural communities and non-office workers.
  • SMS is a two-way channel which means it can handle both activation (outgoing) messages and response (incoming) messages. This is perfect when triage needs to happen quickly in a marketing campaign. *In this case, triage means quickly collecting data in automated conversation to send the user the correct information. So the first message might ask, “Are you a first responder or medical worker?” and the conversation will change depending on that answer.*
  • Message deliverability is reliable and open rates are extremely high.
  • SMS can be a bridge to websites, apps, phone calls and even video.

Target

We plan to reach 10 million people in Kinshasa, Haut-Katanga, South-Kivu, and North-Kivu. Our main target are people living in conflict zones, people living in refugee camps, people living with existing diseases (HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes, heart problems), minority communities and prisoners.

SDGs Impacted:

What can I do to help?

The best way to help is to donate. Contribute today to help the most vulnerable people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Make a transfer to our Bank Account:

Account holder: CERC
Account number : 00014221002010014345242
Swift Code: BICDCDKIXXX
Bank name: FBNBANK RDC
Tel: +243 81 5558858

Email :[email protected]

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