The Health Ambassadors trial tests a strategy of mobilizing “voices for science” to initiate conversations with those who are hesitant about vaccination. The goal of these encounters is to overcome such hesitancy and promote trust in scientific health information. The broader goal of the intervention strategy is to define an approach that goes beyond unilateral messaging to improve public responses to health emergencies. While COVID-19 motivated the study, the trial will promote adherence to a variety of public health recommendations, including vaccination against diseases other than COVID-19 (e.g., cholera, typhoid, HPV, and Hepatitis B).
Each country team will recruit “health ambassadors” with relevant expertise to be deployed to initiate conversations with the vaccine hesitant, with a focus on urban areas with high population density. In Malawi and Zimbabwe, the ambassadors will be recruited from among the community nurses and health workers currently engaged in the public health system. In Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, ambassadors will be recruited among graduates from biomedical sciences. The ambassadors will be trained on a protocol based on the AIMS (Announce, Inquire, Mirror, Secure) methodology. The study will help health authorities to define a scalable strategy for increasing the speed of public uptake of urgent health measures.