Community-led or informed interventions such as using a risk communication survey and community engagement led to an increase in COVID-19 vaccination uptake by as much as 25% during the pandemic, according to a new article appearing in the current issue of Vaccines, authored by Sabin Vaccine Institute and UNICEF.
The article, which details independent case studies of multi-pronged approaches and interventions implemented in Zambia, Iraq, Ghana and India, synthesizes lessons learned from UNICEF Country Office work conducted alongside local governments and communities as part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership. “It is critical to prove impact of these strategies, sharing this evidence-base in both peer-reviewed, academic spaces as well as via other dissemination pathways, to inform decision-making around immunization policy, programs, and practice,” notes Kate Hopkins, PhD, MPH, lead author on the article and director of research at Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand Initiative.
In Zambia, community rapid assessment by mobile phone provided invaluable real-time insights around COVID-19 vaccination perceptions and were subsequently used to develop recommendations tailored to different groups. In Iraq, a new outreach approach utilized direct community engagement to deliver health messages and encourage service uptake, resulting in over 4.4 million doses of COVID-19 and routine immunization vaccines delivered in just 8 months. In Ghana, a human-centered design initiative was applied to co-develop community-informed strategies to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates. In India, a risk communication and community engagement initiative reached half a million people over six months, translating to the 25% increase in vaccination rates.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted global inequities around COVID-19 vaccination, which also affected routine immunization. “We need to center equity – and therefore communities and their needs – around everything we do when it comes to building vaccine confidence and demand and strengthening vaccination delivery and increasing uptake,” says Hopkins. “Looking beyond the pandemic, much of these lessons translate to assisting in recovery from backsliding of essential childhood immunizations and increasing life course immunization, making it a cultural norm.”
Sabin partners with UNICEF to synthesize and translate important evidence-based knowledge into peer-reviewed articles and other written assets around lessons learned and best practices for scalable strategies to generate vaccine demand and increase uptake.