The Ministry of Health and Population (MoH) through Blantyre District Health Office is working with the Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust (MLW), UNICEF and WHO to evaluate the effectiveness of a WHO approved PCV13 vaccine schedule of 2+1 given at 6 weeks, 14 weeks and 9 months. This evaluation has been necessitated by the high carriage of pneumococcus amongst children who receive PCV 13 vaccine following the current 3+0 schedule at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.
As part of the public engagement strategy, the PAVE study team with support from the Science Communications department organised public awareness meetings with community leaders around the health facilities where the study will be implemented in Blantyre District. These meetings were aimed at briefing the community leaders, getting their buy in on the community approaches and ensure cordial working relationships. Majority of the facilities had no prior working relationship with MLW.
Speaking during a meeting at Dziwe Health Centre, Blantyre District Health Education Officer Chrissy Banda commended MLW for ensuring that there is community participation in the process towards launch of the study.
“This is a very good gesture. Communities need to form an integral part of the process so that the correct information is given out to the public,” she said.
Banda went further to advice MLW to ensure that this kind of engagement should continue throughout the study period. She emphasized that it is important for organizations conducting research to come back and give feedback to communities so that they are not suspicious of what is happening.
And speaking after the meeting organized at Lundu Health Centre, Chair for Blantyre District Health and Environment Committee Councillor Akima Mustafa Chipwatali of Linjidzi Ward expressed her gratitude to MLW and the District Health Office for ensuring that local leaders are briefed about such initiatives.
“Our appeal to MLW is that they must continue to interact with local leaders to ensure that there is high participation in research studies in order to help improve health services in the country,” she said.
All the participants in the meetings appreciated the information shared and recognized. They further urged MLW to conduct more meetings targeting communities to ensure that the message reaches all the people.
The meetings were conducted at 28 Health Centers in Blantyre and included facilities in both the urban and rural areas. A total of 970 participants attended the meetings. Some of the local leaders included ward councillors, mother care group, health advisory committee members and health facility staff member.