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In historic milestone, Zambia expands its electronic immunization registry to a second province

By Celina Kareiva, Senior Communications Associate, BID Initiative and Masaina Bwakya, Change Management Lead, BID Zambia

Oct 6, 2020

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Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/John Healey. Health workers enter vaccination data into a tablet during a vaccination service at the Mahatma Gandhi Clinic in Livingstone, Zambia.

Zambia’s Electronic Immunization Registry (ZEIR) will roll out to a second province this month, under the leadership and direction of the Ministry of Health (MOH). It represents the government’s commitment to scaling ZEIR. It’s also a chance for the government to increasingly lead rollout. While the BID Initiative partnered with the MOH in Southern Province, Western Province will be led by the MOH, in partnership with the EPI-OPT consortium, including CHAZ, UNICEF, PATH and CIDRZ.

“The country is slowly transitioning to digital tools and this presents the opportunity to extend lessons learned from [ZEIR implementation] in Southern Province, to somewhere new,” explained Fred Njobvu, Country Lead for the BID Initiative in Zambia. “It can also help to build confidence among stakeholders about ZEIR.”

PATH is concurrently supporting a project led by the Zambian MOH, called EPI Optimization (EPI-OPT). It’s an effort to close the country’s immunization gap by establishing a consortium of technical experts and partners collaborating with the government to improve coverage rates. Partners include the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which have all been tackling different facets of immunization service delivery. PATH brings its years of experience introducing and scaling ZEIR.

Bolstered by EPI-OPT, this historic project milestone is a chance to reach Zambia’s children who are most vulnerable to missing lifesaving vaccines. Expansion to Western Province is another chance to reinforce this initiative and increase coverage rates.

There will be many differences between Southern and Western Province, but it’s also a chance to demonstrate ZEIR’s potential for national scale-up. While ZEIR’s first implementation region was led by the MOH, in partnership with PATH, this will be a collaborative rollout with CHAZ, UNICEF, CIDRZ, and the Government of Zambia. It will also encompass a larger region with 16 additional districts and more than 300 health facilities. Finally, Western Province presents a new set of immunization challenges. More than 80 percent of the province is classified as hard-to-reach areas because of seasonal flooding and fewer immunization partners.

“We’re optimistic about expanding ZEIR into Western Province. We learned a lot from our initial implementation and will apply those lessons here,” explained Fred. “We plan to work closely with the government and our partners under EPI-OPT. They will lend their different specialties, strengths, and resources, making for an even more impactful rollout.”

ZEIR is expected to roll out to the more than 300 facilities in Western Province by December 2021.

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