This story originally appeared on PATH’s website. Below is an excerpt.
Frontline immunization workers in Kenya and Zambia are now helping to determine how the World Health Organization’s (WHO) model universal packaging and labeling for COVID-19 vaccines will vary from the standard operating procedures they currently use, and how to best accelerate vaccine distribution where they live.
“The vaccine label may seem like a small detail, but it’s a small detail that can make big waves in an immunization campaign,” said Dr. Kayaya. “We need to get it right, so we went straight to the people who know how to do it right, and we asked what they thought.”
First, health workers used an online survey to provide feedback on a sample label. Then, they participated in focus groups to discuss the prototype cartons and vials. Working through various immunization and supply scenarios, they analyzed the packaging to identify the label information and training they would need for proper storage, handling, and dosing.
For most participants, vaccine labels are more important than they might seem. In many cases, health care workers don’t have access to an informational leaflet or vaccine packaging, so the vial’s label is all they have.
“It is important the vial label is clear and distinct,” said one nurse in Kakamega County in Kenya. She said different vaccine vials often look very similar to each other, which can cause confusion.
Many others agreed that effective labeling helps them feel confident in their ability to distribute vaccines safely and efficiently and can help manage patients’ concerns or skepticism.
For many in the focus groups, a clear, effective label should contain dosing information, handling instructions, a batch number, vaccine vial monitors to detect heat exposure, and an expiration date.