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In Zambia, BID partners with UNICEF to reach more children with life-saving vaccines

By Fred Njbovu, Implementation Manager, BID Initiative Zambia

May 9, 2019

Posted in

PATH/Chimwasu Njapawu. Patients wait outside a health facility in Zambia where electronic immunization registries have been rolled out to improve data quality and use.

Partnership is at the core of the BID Initiative’s success. In an effort to reach more children with life-saving vaccines, BID has partnered with UNICEF in Zambia to integrate two highly effective immunization platforms – the Zambia Electronic Immunization Registry (ZEIR) and mVacc, a UNICEF-supported mobile vaccination initiative that aims to increase awareness, improve access, and sustain use of immunization services through an SMS-based platform.

Integrating ZEIR and mVacc will improve understanding of the true number of children due for immunizations. mVacc is primarily a community-based intervention, while ZEIR is facility-based. Together, they allow for a continuum of data management, functioning as an uninterrupted platform. mVacc will provide the added value of capturing data on every birth within the community and linking mother and babies directly to the monitoring system, thus supporting personalized care in real time. It will also allow for better coverage estimates, a more accurate understanding of target populations, improved defaulter tracing, and the ability to better plan for immunization services.

Health workers previously relied on poor data on the number of children who had recently missed vaccines. For a long time, they were able to see what percentage of children were missing vaccines, but it was very difficult to identify the children individually. They now know the names and contact information of children lost to follow-up, allowing for more targeted outreach.

“I appreciate the benefits that better data will bring to our community. Improved data will guide us to know how many children are coming according to the targets — whether monthly, quarterly or annually,” says Edith Kamenda, a Maternal and Child Health Nurse at Moonde RHC in Kalomo District, Zambia.  “We will have more accurate numbers of the necessary vaccines that have been given and how much we are impacting the disease burden of vaccine-preventable diseases. ZEIR will help us know which areas have a lot of children. This will enable us to plan in which residential areas we need to increase the number of our outreach staff.”

ZEIR helps health workers plan their stocks based on the number of vaccines administered, and to automatically generate immunization reports, while mVacc includes vaccine reporting, SMS notifications, reminders, and outreach notifications, among other key functions. It also helps health workers collect information on homebirths via SMS and send educational messages to caregivers about the importance of immunization.

Chilala Mwene, a community health worker, explains the importance of partnerships such as this one: “Here in Zambia, it’s on us that we have to take care of everyone and we have to find time to take care of everyone. If my neighbor’s child is not doing well – it’s on me.”

Atriziamgama Chicamcantri, a caregiver, says: “It’s good that you are told to go in if you forget, so you can take your child to be immunized.”

The benefits are not limited to patients. Health workers can now monitor facility performance at all levels and in real time. Dashboards help visualize data and explore service area patterns, and ZEIR and mVacc are built to interoperate with other systems, such as DHIS2.

Over the past few months, UNICEF and BID have been working with Ona, a Nairobi and Vermont-based technology company, to develop and test the interoperability of mVacc and ZEIR. Initial tests have been done and the integrated system is in the process of going live.

mVacc and ZEIR will help to streamline data collection and reporting processes for health workers. Together, they promise to improve immunization coverage and reduce dropout rates.

 

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