Linked Community News August 2022

This newsletter is available in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian.

Over the last couple months, the Linked Immunisation Action Network has been focused on bringing together countries that recently transitioned from Gavi support for a multitude of exciting learning engagements. Azerbaijan and Georgia exchanged lessons on supporting national decision-making for new vaccine introduction, ten countries across the Asia Pacific and Europe-Central Asia regions participated in a virtual learning exchange on benefits and implementation considerations for Electronic Immunisation Registries (EIRs), and seven countries from the Europe-Central Asia region met up in Tbilisi, Georgia to discuss strengthening immunisation service delivery through primary health care platforms.

In June, the Linked Steering Committee held their inaugural meeting with a highly engaging discussion on the network learning agenda and upcoming learning engagements. Country representatives from Armenia, Bhutan, Georgia, Indonesia, and Nigeria participated, along with key global partner stakeholders, and ensured that the network’s activities are aligned with top priorities being seen across countries. We hope you will
get to know all your Steering Committee representatives by reading their spotlight profiles, which include some fun facts about them!

New WHO/UNICEF estimates on immunisation coverage were published in July, illustrating dangerous declines in immunisation coverage – the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years. To complement this pertinent data, Linked created individual country dashboards that visualize key aspects of each network country’s national immunisation programme performance and coverage. Make sure to check out how countries are doing on key indicators of coverage, equity, financing, and new vaccine introductions!

Best regards,
Your Linked Network Facilitation Team from Curatio International Foundation (Tbilisi), the Institute for Health Policy (Colombo), and Results for Development (Washington, DC)

Network Updates

Workshop Focused on Strengthening the Delivery of Immunisation Services Through Primary Health Care (PHC) Platforms
Linked countries from the Europe-Central Asia region – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan – initiated the process of immunisation and primary health care (PHC) integration years ago, and currently, all provide immunisation activities through PHC delivery platforms. However, these countries still experience coordination, human resource, and performance monitoring and management challenges in delivering immunisation services. Stakeholders from these countries came together in Tbilisi, Georgia, to share experiences, mitigating strategies, and good practices to address these challenges, with the objective of strengthening service delivery to maintain, increase, or restore immunisation coverage levels. Access all the workshop presentations and materials on the Linked website. A key takeaways blog will follow soon, so keep an eye out in our next newsletter!

Benefits and Implementation Considerations for Electronic Immunisation Registries (EIRs)
The COVID-19 pandemic generated new challenges for national immunisation programmes, including the need to provide citizens with electronic documentation of their vaccination status. These challenges highlighted the potential benefits of an innovation in vaccine information systems established in a number of countries prior to the pandemic – Electronic Immunisation Registries (EIRs). Ten countries across the Europe Asia and Asia Pacific regions participated in a virtual learning exchange, hosted by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), focused on increasing awareness and understanding of what EIRs are and their potential benefits to routine immunisation programs, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 response. Speakers from Australia, Vietnam, and Bhutan discussed their countries’ experiences with EIRs and shared lessons that can inform other countries’ adoption of EIRs. Due to the high level of demand and interest in this topic, Linked Network Facilitators are exploring additional learning opportunities on EIRs. In the interim, the materials from this learning exchange – including the webinar recording, presentations, and a key takeaways blog – are all available on the Linked website!

Linked Country Dashboards Highlight Key Indicators Focused on Coverage, Equity, Financing, and New Vaccine Introductions
We’re pleased to be launching new country dashboards that help countries track their progress toward strong immunisation programme performance using up-to-date evidence just released from WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunisation Coverage (WUENIC), WHO/UNICEF Joint Reporting Form on Immunisation (JRF), and other sources. We encourage you to explore the dashboards of your network peers, which include key indicators around coverage, equity, financing, and new vaccine introductions, and identify countries with successes or those facing similar challenges as your country which you would like to discuss further. Simply click on the individual country profiles on our website to access the dashboards! The dashboards are also accessible from our resource library. As a reminder, Linked is here to support countries by facilitating connections between countries for joint learning. Please share your insights, experiences, or questions about the dashboards on our community discussion forum!

Learn About Your Linked Steering Committee Representatives in New Spotlights
Linked Network Facilitators chatted with representatives from the Steering Committee to learn more about their experiences working in immunisation, what they are most looking forward to from the network, as well as some fun, personal facts about themselves. Below are teasers from two new Steering Committee representatives!

Lia Jabidze, Head of Immunoprophylaxis Division, National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), Georgia
What aspects of your role in the Steering Committee are you most excited to participate in?
Analyzing the root causes of problems and finding solutions, generating best practices and lessons learned that can be shared and understanding top national immunisation programme (NIP) challenges, including barriers and threats to maintaining high and equitable immunisation coverage and sustainably introducing new vaccines.

Nathalie Vande Maele, Health Economist – Financing for Immunization, World Health Organization
How do you think participation in the Linked Immunisation Action Network will help you do your work with WHO?
The Linked network is very important for WHO as we monitor financial sustainability of countries with a particular interest for MICs. This work also feeds into the IA2030 annual reporting, and we need to discuss our global analysis with regional and country representatives.

Supporting National Decision-Making for New Vaccine Introduction in the Euro Region
The decision-making process for introducing a new vaccine can be complex and dynamic and involve a range of influential stakeholders. As Azerbaijan is considering the introduction of new vaccines, the country sought support from Linked to learn about the experiences of other countries in the region to inform their vaccine introduction policy formulation process and to understand what factors drove their decision to introduce key missing vaccines. During a recent learning exchange with Azerbaijan, representatives from Georgia described the vaccine introduction process, the budgetary and programmatic implications, lessons learned, and potential risks from their experience introducing Rotavirus in 2013 and HPV in 2019. These useful insights will inform Azerbaijan as it reconsiders its new vaccine introduction process, notably how to effectively engage the range of stakeholders involved in the process. Materials from the exchange – including the presentations and a key takeaways blog – will be available on the Linked website in the coming weeks. Make sure to check them out in the next newsletter!

Featured News & Resources

COVID-19 Pandemic Fuels Largest Continued Backslide in Vaccinations in Three Decades
WHO and UNICEF sounded the alarm as new WHO/UNICEF estimates on immunisation coverage (WUENIC) show the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years, with 25 million infants missing out on lifesaving vaccines in 2021 alone.

Gavi Analysis on the State of Routine Immunisation in Lower-income Countries
Gavi released its analysis of what happened with immunisation coverage in 2021, drawing from the global WUENIC data and focusing on the state of immunisation in the 57 lower-income countries supported by Gavi. These five charts highlight the main findings from the analysis.

Healthcare Professionals Can Counter COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation by Taking to Social Media
A recent study led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health explored the motivations and hesitancies among healthcare workers and how they’re shared on social media. According to the study’s findings, health workers can use social media platforms to encourage factual, constructive dialogue with patients to address vaccine hesitancy.

Considerations for Integrating COVID-19 Vaccination into Immunisation Programmes and Primary Health Care for 2022 and Beyond
WHO and UNICEF developed this recent guidance, which lays out key programmatic considerations – including risks and benefits – of moving from conducting mass COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to integrating COVID-19 vaccination into immunisation programmes, primary health care (PHC), and other relevant health services for 2022 and beyond. Country experiences with COVID-19 vaccination integration are also summarized.

EPI Mid-Level Management Online Training Available Online for Free
WHO AFRO’s EPI Mid-Level Management training is now available as a series of 15 interactive online courses that any individual may take for free, at their own pace. In each course, learners gain hands-on practice by working with realistic scenarios and examples. After each course, learners earn certification from WHO AFRO, enabling higher performance on the job and the potential for career advancement. The courses are available in English, French, and Portuguese. Sign up and get started!

Effects of Faith Actor Engagement on the Uptake and Coverage of Immunisation
This report, a special investigation into the role of faith actors on immunisation uptake, explores common themes in vaccine hesitancy relating to faith. The evidence concludes that vaccine hesitancy among faith communities threatens routine immunisation coverage, but also demonstrates the potential of engaging faith actors as partners to increase immunisation coverage.

Guiding Principles for Recovering, Building Resiliency, and Strengthening of Immunisation in 2022 and Beyond
Countries are encouraged to urgently close immunity gaps and recover immunisation services while capitalizing on the opportunities from the pandemic response and COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. These guiding principles intend to support countries in their decision-making and actions regarding immunisation recovery, resiliency, and strengthening of immunisation programmes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including COVID-19 vaccination introduction and scale-up, and support efforts toward pandemic preparedness and building global health security.

External Events

Zero-Dose Children Webinar Series Taking Place in September
The Zero-Dose Children webinar series will build understanding of how to reach key populations which are missed by immunisation and other basic health services including communities residing in poor urban areas (informal settlements), those affected by conflict and displacement and residents of remote-rural areas. A final webinar will unpack challenges in health workforce in reaching missed communities with basic health services. The webinars will share specific country experiences on the latest learning and best practices for bringing services to the hard-to-reach.

  • Session 1: Urban immunisation
    08 Sep 2022 – 3pm CEST
  • Session 2: Immunisation in fragile/conflict affected settings
    15 Sep 2022 – 3pm CEST
  • Session 3: Remote rural settings
    22 Sep 2022 – 3pm CEST
  • Session 4: Human resources for missed communities
    29 Sep 2022 – 3pm CEST

Register for one or more of the webinars here.

Social and Structural Gender Barriers to Immunisation
The Zero-Dose Community of Practice held a series of webinars unpacking gender dimensions and the implications for immunisation programmes, exploring behavioral and social drivers to understand and address gender-related barriers, and identifying indicators and tools for monitoring. If you were unable to attend, the materials from the two webinars are available online.

Strengthening Immunisation Supply Chains: Gavi Immunisation Supply Chain Strategy for 2021–2025
This presentation from a recent webinar outlines Gavi’s immunisation supply chain strategy (2021-2025), which supports the vision of the Gavi Alliance and the Global Immunisation Agenda 2030 of leaving no one behind with immunisation. The strategy strives towards a vision of strong supply chains led by government, supported by partners and funders, which enable the delivery of potent life-saving vaccines to every person when needed, no matter where they live.

Country Spotlights

How Digitisation is Ensuring No Child is Left Behind in Gambia and Uganda
A technology NGO is replacing paper vaccination records with simple, cost-effective digital solutions in the Gambia and Uganda. In the Gambia, an innovative hybrid approach called smart paper technology, or SPT, improved data collection and data accuracy – both vital for vaccination programmes. The Ministry of Health in Uganda is now scaling up the SPT system for routine vaccinations, as well as other primary health care services, around the country. Read more on the Gavi VaccinesWork site.

“Pakistan Can”: How One Country Repaired its Routine Immunisation Safety Net
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Pakistan’s routine immunisation programme took a heavy hit. But while many countries continued to struggle to make up lost ground in 2021, Pakistan bounced back to pre-pandemic levels of protection. VaccinesWork spoke to country health leaders to find out what went right.

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