The Covid-19 vaccines are currently the most potent weapon in our armory in the fight against the pandemic, but its success depends on the combined efforts of Governments and citizens. The major challenge with vaccination has been “Vaccine Hesitancy”, which can only be addressed by spreading awareness about the vaccines. A number of factors, including fear of side effects and the perceived long-term impact of vaccination, have adversely affected the COVID-19 vaccine campaigns. Misinformation and false narratives around vaccines have also contributed to vaccine hesitancy. As we all know, nearly all of the population needs to be vaccinated for the pandemic to end. Awareness campaigns that provide relevant and accurate information about the vaccines are important to reduce the level of vaccine hesitancy, improve vaccine acceptance, engender trust and dispel doubts or untruths about the vaccine. Continuous training and education are needed to improve vaccine acceptance among the public and support vaccination programs.

Having recognized this need, we, at Slum Soccer, planned to conduct vaccine awareness campaigns in different slum communities in Nagpur where we are currently running our programs. As a first step, we trained our coaches about the vaccines. The coaches are often the first point of contact and enjoy the trust of their communities. Thereafter, the coaches took the responsibility to make their communities aware of the vaccines and debunk any rumors. In this way, we were able to make around 40-50 families aware of the COVID-19 vaccines which also included our participants and coaches’ families. Everyone whom our coaches interacted with was also asked to help spread awareness to more people so that we can fight the pandemic together and emerge victoriously.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges to Slum Soccer, since the model of training and educating children through social or sports gatherings had to be stopped completely. Through vaccine awareness campaigns that can help reduce vaccine hesitancy, we hope for a return to normal life when our participants can once again play and learn together.