Sabin and WHO Announce 60 Projects to Boost Immunization

Female caucasian doctor vaccinating young Indian girl in small village, Rajasthan, India

Vaccinating zero-dose children in refugee camps in Sudan and remote villages in Papua New Guinea. Building vaccine acceptance in Cameroon and Togo. Acceleration of “The Big Catch-Up” in routine immunization in Ghana and India.

These are among the 60 immunization projects getting underway in 30 countries in early 2024, thanks to the successful second COVID-19 Recovery for Routine Immunization Programs Fellowship offered jointly by the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the World Health Organization.

County Level Meeting with County, National and UNICEF Supervisors in Liberia for zero dose project in first Fellowship cohort.
Sabin’s Boost Community Coordinates Fellowship

Led by Sabin’s Boost Community, the first Fellowship began in 2022 to support  efforts to recover immunization programs after the COVID-19 pandemic, which had caused major disruptions to routine services. It supported nearly 1,000 immunization professionals who attended a series of webinars on strategies for vaccination recovery ranging from catch-up vaccination, reducing missed opportunities for vaccination, social and behavioral drivers for vaccination. Participants then proposed projects that would help their communities recover. Thirty Fellows were chosen to continue to a second round of the Fellowship, which involved one-on-one mentorship. The projects ranged from assisting a clinic in Togo that had pivoted to become a COVID-19 treatment facility during the pandemic in catching up on routine immunizations to addressing decreases in childhood immunizations in the Tamale Metropolis of the Northern Region in Ghana.

The first phase of the 2023 Fellowship began in August 2023 with webinars carried out in French and English. The second round of the Fellowship doubled to accommodate 60 mentees.  Half of the projects focus on reducing zero-dose children, and more than half of the mentees work in local ministries of health. To help mentees execute their projects:

  • They are paired with dedicated mentors – experienced global immunization professionals–   for monthly meetings and additional guidance between meetings.
  • They attend bi-monthly cohort meetings where they can share their progress and any challenges they are facing for peer support and help from facilitators.
  • They are continuously connected to the Fellowship community via online channels and apps, facilitated through Sabin’s Boost community that helps more than 4,500 immunization professionals worldwide connect, learn and lead.
Rebuilding After the Pandemic

“Given the continued challenges around rebuilding routine immunization levels after the pandemic, we are delighted that we could expand the number of supported projects and mentees for this Fellowship cohort,” says Elizabeth Kohlway. Director of Community Building and Digital Engagement at Sabin. “Our expertise in professional mentoring and community building gives the mentees real-time feedback and suggestions that reinforces their success and helps generate results on the ground.”

“As we celebrate 50 years of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in 2024, these fellowships are important in promoting the value of immunization at county level and envisioning EPI in the next 50 years” say Jhilmil Bahl, who is joined by Laura Nic Lochlainn as WHO focal points for the COVID-19 Recovery for Routine Immunization Programs Fellowship .

The new cohort of Fellowship projects are expected to be completed by spring 2024, and materials and data generated by the projects will be provided to the global immunization community via Sabin and WHO networks.

See more stories from the first COVID-19 Recovery Fellowship cohort.