This week, Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Boost Community (Boost) and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched their second COVID-19 Recovery for Routine Immunization Programs Fellowship, with a record 1,681 accepted applicants from 100 countries. Most of the participants work at national and sub-national levels (90%) and work for the Ministry of Health (45%) as immunization professionals in their countries.
This is the second year for the Fellowship, a comprehensive training program aimed at supporting immunization professionals by strengthening their capacity to plan and implement immunization programming. It is part of “The Big Catch-up” campaign involving multilateral organizations such as WHO and UNICEF to boost vaccination among children following significant declines in childhood immunization rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Than 1,200 Participants in First Year
The Fellowship launched last year with more than 1,200 Anglophone and Francophone participants. Nearly 200 individuals completed the first phase of the program, which involved an eight-week live engagement series led by WHO staff and immunization subject matter experts. Topics support rebuilding routine immunization, such as catch-up vaccination, integration and life course immunization, and the development and submission of a prospective strategic proposal or a retrospective case study related to COVID-19 recovery immunization efforts.
At the end of the live courses, a sub-set of Fellows (30 total) were selected to move on to phase two of the Fellowship – the mentorship program. They were matched with skilled global and regional technical immunization experts to help support them through the implementation of their projects or publication of their case studies.
The results of that inaugural cohort are documented on Boost’s Bright Spots website, with more than 15 stories and case studies from 2022 Fellows showcasing their success and challenges in implementing their COVID-19 recovery projects. A post-fellowship survey of the mentorship program found that 89% agreed or strongly agreed that the Fellowship program increased their capacity to strengthen, administer, and manage routine immunization programs during COVID-19 recovery.
“First Class” Training
“The training was first class. [But] the most important part for me was the projects,” says Dr. Hilarius Asiwome Kose Abiwu of Ghana. “We had the opportunity to work on something very relevant to us and [were] assigned experienced mentors. [We could] immediately apply the lessons and the ideas that we had learned during the first phase of the fellowship to solve real time challenges.”
This year there are more than 1,000 participants taking the live courses in English and more than 700 in French. Following the success of the 2022 cohort, the 2023 Fellowship program will follow a similar two-phased approach, with the goal of supporting at least 60 Fellows through the mentorship program, which gets underway in October.
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