Environmental Health Officer for Mzimba North George Nundwe has said increasing access to accurate information on viral variants will help to reduce anxiety and confusion surrounding variants and increase vaccine uptake.
Nundwe said this after participating in a needs assessment survey which was conducted by the Communications and Public engagement team from MLW. The needs assessment was for a project called Viral Variant Conversations ‘Improving the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 variants in Malawi and Sri Lanka’ is an initiative by the University of Cambridge in partnership with the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (SJP) from Sri Lanka and the University of Malawi to improving the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 variants in Malawi and Sri Lanka.
During the survey which ran from 8 to 10 May 2022, the team facilitated focus group discussions with members of Katete CBO in Mzimba. Bentley Nyirongo from the CBO commended MLW and its partners for the project.
“Before attending a training on COVID vaccine, I was afraid of taking the vaccine. It is after understanding how COVID vaccines work from a training that I was able to take the dosage. Therefore, I am happy with the rollout of this assessment because it will upskill public health workers who will share facts about viral variants to community members,” said Nyirongo.
One of the team leads of the project Elvis Moyo said the assessment was a success. Moyo said that the survey was helpful for the public engagement team to collect insight that would inform the training of health care workers on the topic of viral variants.
“The project has started on a good note and is in line with the set time frame. From the assessment, I have learnt that there is a knowledge gap when it comes to the subject of viral variants and genomics. The interviews from public health officials from Mzimba North DHO and Katete Radio Listening Club will portray a vivid picture from the health service and community sides on viral variants,” said Moyo.
The project began in March 2022 and will run up to March 2023. . The project is being funded by the Wellcome Genomics Surveillance Public Engagement Call. A series of meetings will be held with Malawian public health officials to understand their training needs around the communication of variant information. Other stakeholders to be involved are urban radios, local radios, community radios, and radio listening clubs from different parts of Malawi.