What you need to know:
- With several new vaccines on the horizon, we need to assess what has worked and where we have fallen short so that we are ready to deploy innovations like the malaria vaccine once available.
- We must share our lessons to develop the tools and information needed to protect all through routine immunisations.
- Amref Health Africa has been selected as a primary grant recipient, and they will play a key role in guiding and administering subgrants to and coordinating with local organisations so they can implement these strategies.
As we reflect on the last 18 months of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the largest mass vaccination campaign in history, what has become evident is the complexities of immunising communities, equitably and at scale.
Beyond the vaccine supply chain challenges, the rollout of the coronavirus jab has also highlighted the need for robust demand generation strategies for vaccine uptake, especially where the target is adult populations.
With several new vaccines on the horizon, we need to assess what has worked and where we have fallen short so that we are ready to deploy innovations like the malaria vaccine once available.
We must share our lessons to develop the tools and information needed to protect all through routine immunisations.
These lessons are especially critical given that just 20 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and routine immunisations have been lagging globally.
To protect African countries from future waves of Covid-19, we must vaccinate at least 90 per cent of the most at-risk populations against the virus as a first step and increase routine vaccinations across the region so we don’t see the resurgence of diseases like measles and polio.
For that, we need a better understanding of what prevents people from getting vaccinated and also devise local solutions to improve the uptake of the life-saving jab.
Tailored solutions led by local leaders and health officials will allow communities to ramp up coverage for Covid-19 vaccines, as well as for other essential vaccines and health services.
Ministries of health and African-led organisations have long worked to create context-specific approaches to pressing health challenges—like in the HIV and Ebola response.
We cannot achieve our ambitious goals in isolation: We have to learn from one another and share strategies, best practices and resources with our neighbours.
Every family, every community and every country has faced unprecedented challenges in the past two years, and if we can come together to share our experiences, challenges and ideas, we can uncover similarities, create solutions and build a healthier continent for all.
Share lessons and best practices
Programmes like the Vaccination Access Network (VAN), a peer-to-peer learning initiative backed by The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Vaccine Initiative (GVI), are critical to helping us develop solutions nurtured by community knowledge and support countries with increased vaccination rates.
At monthly intra-country conversations and cross-country discussions, the network brings together health ministry officials, partners and other key actors across Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda who share lessons learned and best practices.
This model works: Participants are able to surface their needs and challenges while sharing learnings with their regional counterparts to boost Covid-19 vaccine demand locally and, along the way, strengthen health systems.
Following a recent session focused on understanding barriers to vaccine uptake, the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI), at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, is working to train local champions to speak with community members, answer their questions and encourage vaccination.
These kinds of locally-led solutions that are tailored to local barriers to vaccine uptake have the greatest potential for positive impact.
Amref Health Africa has been selected as a primary grant recipient, and they will play a key role in guiding and administering subgrants to and coordinating with local organisations so they can implement these strategies.
The solutions will be based on African needs, with African-devised solutions, and African-led administration.
With this new infrastructure for coordination between countries, the region will be better able to respond to existing and future health priorities.
Our solutions must be as adaptable and resilient as Covid-19 has proved to be. We have the expertise to increase vaccinations; now we must share what we know and learn from one another to design and implement locally driven, data-based approaches that generate vaccine demand in sub-Saharan Africa.
Only then can we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger, with health systems better equipped to respond to other threats and protect the health of all Africans.
Ms Muchenje is the strategic partnerships and health lead, Africa Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation. @wadzanayimuchenje