Breaking Borders: Integrating COVID-19 and Measles Vaccination Efforts in Africa

by Amref Health Africa

The integration of COVID-19 response initiatives with routine immunization programs marked a crucial tactic in navigating today’s dynamic public health landscape. As the globe wrestles with the aftermath of the pandemic, ensuring the resumption of seamless access to routine immunization services is paramount for safeguarding global health. By embedding COVID-19 measures into existing immunization platforms, we ensure the delivery of vital vaccines and fortify healthcare systems against future crises. Leveraging established infrastructure and distribution networks, this integrated approach boosts vaccination coverage and resource efficiency, advancing our collective mission of enhancing population health and well-being.

In Africa, tackling both measles and COVID-19 presents a multifaceted challenge. Measles, a highly contagious viral infection, has long been a concern across the continent, posing significant threats to vulnerable populations, especially children. The emergence of COVID-19 compounded these challenges, further straining already fragile healthcare systems. Integrating strategies to combat both diseases is crucial to mitigate their impact and ensure equitable service delivery amid evolving epidemiological landscapes and resource constraints.

Take Turkana, Kenya, for example, where the Vaccination Action Network (VAN) PanAfricare team swiftly integrated measles and COVID-19 response efforts during an outbreak. Leveraging community outreach, the Ministry of Health organized measles campaigns to combat the outbreak’s severity. Despite being largely pastoralist with cross-border movement, Turkana faced outbreaks spreading across borders. The PanAfricare team seized the opportunity to administer COVID-19 vaccinations alongside measles immunizations during these outreaches. With the support from The Rockefeller Foundation funded-VAN project, over 25,000 children received measles vaccinations across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

In Djibouti, where a high influx of migrants strains the healthcare system, the Core Group Partners Project (CGPP) collaborates with the Sadar Institute to ensure vaccine access, demand, and confidence-building for migrant and host communities. Through innovative communication and mobilization approaches, CGPP reaches out to communities, conducting household visits and outreaches. So far, the project has immunized 1,406 children against measles in Al Sabieh, Dikhil, and Arta districts, showcasing the impact of integrated COVID-19 and routine immunization programs in serving populations effectively.

Author: Lily Achala – Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Global Health Security Unit- Amref Health Africa.

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