UNDP and the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health address vaccine hesitancy by kicking off the ‘Vaccines for Life’ campaign with the support of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Georgia is struggling through a severe upsurge in COVID-19 virus cases that takes people’s lives and devastates the economy. Even though four different vaccines are available in the country, vaccination levels are still far below the 60% goal the government set as a target for 2021 — as of 6 September, only 17% of the adult population in Georgia have been fully vaccinated.
To help speed up the vaccination process and debunk vaccine myths, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) kicked off the ‘Vaccines for Life’ campaign. This awareness-raising and educational initiative will reinforce and strengthen ongoing national and international efforts to raise vaccination levels in the country.
“The death toll has exceeded 80 cases daily. Nothing is more important than saving lives. Vaccination is the only way to ensure that people stop facing a mortal threat and that the country can move from emergency response to recovery,” said UNDP Acting Head Anna Chernyshova. “UNDP stands by the Government of Georgia and its people to promote life-saving vaccination, to counter misinformation and to reach out to the most vulnerable groups, including minorities and people living in regions that are difficult to reach.”
The UNDP-led campaign draws on financial resources made available by a range of UNDP donors and partners, including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United Nations’ Fund for the Sustainable Development Goals.
The campaign will be implemented in close partnership with the Government Administration, the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, and with regional and municipal authorities, public and private agencies and civil society organizations.
“Public awareness is the key to reducing the spread of the virus and keeping people safe from its most severe effects,” said NCDC Head Amiran Gamkrelidze. “Our goal is to reach a 60 percent vaccination rate by the end of 2021 and to ensure that protective measures, such as social distancing and wearing face masks, are strictly followed everywhere. These goals can be achieved only if people and the government take on shared responsibility for fighting the pandemic.”
According to a 2021 survey commissioned by the National Democratic Institute, 42 percent of Georgians lack accurate information about vaccination. This number is even higher — 47 percent — in rural areas. The survey also revealed that vaccine hesitance reaches 47 percent of the entire population, while 35 percent are ready to vaccinate.
The ‘Vaccines for Life’ campaign spreads pro-vaccination messages and provides people with the opportunity to immediately register and vaccinate. UNDP and NCDC will organize mobile ‘vaccination squads’ that will conduct information meetings, administer vaccines or arrange transportation to the vaccination sites. The vaccination squads will be active across Georgia (in the Ajara Autonomous Republic and the Guria, Imereti, Kvemo-Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Shida Kartli regions).
The campaign will address the least informed social groups, including ethnic and religious minorities, farmers, internally displaced persons, rural women and youth, people with disabilities and older people.
In addition, UNDP and NCDC, in partnership with the Government Administration and the Civil Service Bureau, will reach out to civil servants across Georgia to increase vaccination levels in the public sector.
The ‘Vaccines for Life’ campaign will continue throughout 2021, bringing together a wide range of actors, including the national and local public agencies, the Georgian Railway, leading insurance companies, civil society and community organizations and the media.