Agness John, Senior Technical Officer, FHI 360
Andrea Surette, Technical Advisor, FHI 360

Featured image: Tanzania’s Minister of Health, Ummy Mwalimu, promotes COVID-19 vaccination at a music event hosted by the health promotion unit in partnership with USAID’s EpiC project. Photo by Agness John, FHI 360.

Tanzania Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu and several Bongo Flava artists including Harmonize, Marioo, Sholo Mwamba, Balaa Mc, Sarafina, Mimi Mars, and Mzee wa Bwax worked together to raise awareness and increase COVID-19 vaccination uptake during a recent event at Nangwanda Sijaona Stadium in Mtwara, Tanzania. This event was part of an events-based vaccination campaign currently being rolled out in the Mtwara region. The campaign was organized by the Ministry of Health (MOH) through its health promotion unit in partnership with the Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

While the MOH has set a national target of reaching 70 percent vaccine coverage among the eligible population by the end of 2022, only 29 percent of Mtwara’s eligible population was vaccinated as of July 11, 2022. This is one of the lowest vaccine coverage rates among Tanzania’s regions. Low vaccine uptake is a result of vaccine hesitancy fueled by myths and misconceptions in the community. Such misconceptions include the belief that the vaccine may cause impotence, sickness, and even death.

Minister of Health Ummy Mwalimu encourages COVID-19 vaccination during the Mziki Mnene music event. Photo by Agness John, FHI 360.

Since the July launch of the event-based vaccination campaign in the Mtwara region, 122,547 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, and vaccination coverage among the eligible population increased from 29% to 49% in a four-week period.

Event-based vaccination campaigns, in which public health information and COVID-19 vaccines are offered during a public event, are an effective way to rapidly increase COVID-19 vaccination rates. The EpiC project is hosting a series of music events called Mziki Mnene (Heavy Music) with the theme Bega kwa bega, ujanja kujanja (Shoulder to shoulder, vaccination is intelligence) to accelerate uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. Organized by the popular radio station E-FM, the Mziki Mnene platform will be used to provide edutainment for Mtwara residents on COVID-19 vaccination, create demand, and provide an opportunity for vaccination.

In her remarks, Mwalimu noted, “Through the Mziki Mnene platform, we will continue to remind each other to register, complete the doses, and get COVID-19 vaccination certificates to reach the goal of protecting our country against the pandemic. I would like to thank all the leaders and the citizens who are here to witness the launch of this vaccination campaign and for their continuous cooperation in sensitizing on vaccination uptake. I would also like to recognize EpiC and the USAID mission for making this possible.”

Vaccination sites were set up at the Mziki Mnene music event. Photo by Agness John, FHI 360.

The Mziki Mnene campaign aims to rapidly accelerate vaccination rates in the Mtwara region and contribute to the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the eligible population. The campaign will help hard-to-reach community members and youth, who are motivated to attend music events, to get their COVID vaccinations. The events will also facilitate access to vaccinations without long waits in a queue.

To commemorate the collaboration between development partners and the Government of Tanzania to reach the national vaccination goal, EpiC Tanzania’s Country Lead Waziri Nyoni said, “The COVID-19 vaccine is a high priority intervention that continues to be implemented since its official launch in July 2021 by the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, the honorable Samia Suluhu Hassan. Based on this effort by the government in collaboration with development partners, COVID-19 transmission is rapidly decreasing. The Mziki Mnene campaign is expected to be conducted in five regions of Lindi, Mtwara, Ruvuma, Njombe, and Iringa.”

As a result of government efforts, more than 24 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been received from COVAX and other countries as of July 2022. These vaccines have been distributed for use across the country, and this campaign is part of the national effort to get doses in arms and achieve the national target.