Community Health Worker Safety is Community Safety
By Sara Kurtovic
"As front line healthcare workers, we play a critical role in fighting COVID-19 in the community. I am ready to be vaccinated so that I can protect my community, family and friends from the pandemic."
- Caroline Auma, Community Health Worker with the Lwala Community Alliance in Kenya
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, community health workers (CHWs) have played a vital role in maintaining essential health services while responding to the health emergency. It is often the case that frontline health workers, including CHWs, risk their own lives to serve their communities.
As vaccines arrive in many African countries, it is critical to ensure CHWs both receive the vaccine and are included in vaccine roll-out strategy. Rwanda was the first African nation to use the Pfizer vaccine last month and prioritized health workers and the elderly. “This is like lengthening my life span,” Sisiyani Rusenyanteko, a CHW receiving the vaccine, told a reporter for Reuters. Countries including Liberia, Kenya and Uganda have also prioritized CHWs in Phase One of vaccine rollout.
Once protected, CHWs can play an important role in the COVID-19 vaccination effort. CHWs can identify and enroll target populations for vaccination, as well as track and report outcomes and side effects. As trusted members of the community and credible and established sources of information, their role in engaging, educating and mobilizing communities about the vaccine cannot be understated. However, CHWs cannot play this important role in fighting the virus if they are not counted and vaccinated. As we celebrate the impact of CHWs this World Health Worker Week, we must also take action and advocate to our government decision makers to ensure CHWs are protected as they protect us from COVID-19.
“My role as a healthcare worker is crucial in ensuring the well-being of the communities I serve. COVID-19 vaccination to us as healthcare workers boosts our morale to continue offering quality healthcare services to our esteemed clients. We believe that quality health care is a right for all.”
-Wycliffe Omwanda, Clinical Excellence Manager with the Lwala Community Alliance in Kenya