Vaccine Confidence: Results and Lessons Learned

Vaccine Confidence: Results and Lessons Learned

Our project to assess and address vaccine confidence using a local, women-designed technology demonstrated that the use of participatory methods and tools to develop and disseminate voice-based social media messages improved both knowledge of, and confidence in, vaccination against COVID-19 in underserved peri-urban communities in Bamako, Mali.

The project used a mix of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods, including individual interviews and focus groups discussions. The project relied and built on a participatory evaluation of social and gender norms conducted in the target community before the project began.

The key results of this project include: 

  • 100% of women who accessed voice-based health messages demonstrated improved knowledge about the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19
  • 75% of women who used the application expressed confidence in vaccination against COVID-19
  • 73% of women who used the application shared the information they learned with others
  • 60% of women who used the application felt better equipped to convince others to get vaccinated against COVID-19
A woman in Kalabambougou shares her experience using Keneya Blon

Part of the purpose of the project was to generate lessons for how to use social media tools and messages to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. Our particular focus was on hard-to-reach populations in marginalized communities, especially women. Drawing from both our work to develop Kènèya Blon, and its application to COVID-19 vaccination, we summarize our lessons learned as:

  • Community driven: A tool designed by women living in peri-urban communities to increase access to health information proved to be relevant and impactful, despite limited access to information technology; when trying to meet the needs of hard-to-reach or marginalized communities, they should be involved at every step, including data collection and technology design
  • Targeted: Technology and digital interventions must be adapted to the realities of each community or population it is trying to serve; this adaptation can include the form and function of the application or the types of content used (language, images, etc.), but also contextual factors such as social/gender norms, the kinds of misinformation circulating, etc.
  • Coordination: When coordinating with offline health or vaccination services, ensure the quality and availability of a respondent for interactions with users, as well as the quality and availability of the vaccination service at the health center level; when possible, train these providers in the use of digital tools/messages being used in their communities
  • Ongoing: Campaigns implemented once or over a limited period of time will lose impact over time; the dissemination of messages relating to COVID-19 must be ongoing and consistent until public health and vaccination targets are reached
  • Accessible technology: Though access to technology is increasing, it will continue to be a limiting factor for millions, especially for women who have limited skills or experience that allow them to use it effectively. This project recommends the integration of relevant, local digital tools into mobilization strategies around vaccination against Covid-19 while also continuing the search for strategies that can share voice-based messages on the types of phone and technologies that are most available to marginalized communities
  • Mixed methods: Promote the use of the digital tools within target communities with on-the-ground and face-to-face strategies to build trust
Improving community awareness and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines with local women-designed technology

Improving community awareness and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines with local women-designed technology

As the world has seen and experienced during the pandemic, vaccinating populations requires much more than a vaccine. While the availability of a vaccine is one important component, a variety of factors can influence vaccination rates and coverage. Some, like geographic, logistical, and health system factors have been a challenge to ensuring complete and timely vaccination of children for underserved communities for decades; the pandemic has exacerbated these problems. Other factors can be related to gender, social norms, or misinformation.

From October 2021 to February 2022 with funding from the Vaccine Confidence Fund, Mali Health worked with women and communities to understand the factors influencing knowledge of and confidence in COVID-19 vaccination in underserved peri-urban communities. We then developed and tested messages for Kènèya Blon, the local, voice-based smartphone application that we developed with women in Sabalibougou, a peri-urban community in Bamako.

Collecting data directly from community members was essential to understanding the factors that influenced confidence in the vaccine, and therefore how to address them. The end users were involved in every step of the original development of the Kènèya Blon platform. When assessing how to use it to address vaccine confidence as a part of this project, their participation was vital again.

We used participatory methods to understand attitudes and behaviors related to vaccination, and the norms which govern them. At the beginning of project, 95% of those surveyed did not trust COVID-19 vaccines and had no intention of getting vaccinated. According to the same survey, the primary reason given was a lack of access to trusted health sources that could provide accurate information, or correct misinformation. A lack of access to health professionals and reliable health information was a key factor in acting on misinformation and the adoption of positive behavior changes.

These findings reinforced what we learned earlier during our work as a part of the WomenConnect Challenge, Then, we learned that access to reliable health information is one of the highest priorities and biggest challenges for the women we serve. Access to information was even linked to gender equality, not only in the minds of women, but in the minds of men and community leaders. Because women living in peri-urban communities had limited opportunities to go to school where they could gain reading and writing skills, they face barriers to accessing reliable information.

The Kènèya Blon platform was designed to address this primary challenge. During the project, users had access to accurate public health information about COVID-19 and that addressed rumors and misninformation circulating in their community. They were also able to access health personnel to express their concerns related to COVID-19 vaccination and receive responses to their questions. These features were designed by women, for women – using a what we call women-centered design approaches – but its impact extends far beyond its users.

We attribute the significant short-term results of the project to this rapid access to trusted information, because it met the primary need community members expressed. To learn more about the results and lessons we documented about vaccine confidence, please continue reading our next post.