Intersections: How COVID-19 Is Affecting Door-to-Door Health Campaigns

When it comes to the delivery of life-saving health interventions, going door-to-door has long been seen an a highly effective method. But with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise globally, campaigns now face additional challenges: namely, protecting their healthcare workers from the virus, and preventing potentially infected intervention recipients from passing it onto others.

Such was the case in Pakistan, which recently completed a door-to-door polio eradication campaign. The initiative, which targeted more than 30 million children under the age of five in 128 districts, saw more than 210,000 frontline workers travel door-to-door to deliver the vaccine.

“Now it’s up to the parents and society as a whole to vaccinate their children and open doors to frontline workers to get rid of not only the polio but all other vaccine preventable diseases,” said Dr. Rana Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme.

The parents’ concern is understandable—as the novel coronavirus has swept the world, many people have been informed that their best defense is to stay home and remain distant from others. Opening their doors to healthcare workers who have treated thousands of people could be seen as a risk.

To ensure the safety of their workforces, campaigns have been ramping up the protective equipment given to their staff, as well as providing them with additional training.

“All vaccinators, volunteers and supervisors were trained on COVID-19 prevention protocols and had been provided with personal protective equipment (PPEs) and alcohol-based hand sanitizers for use in order to ensure optimal infection prevention,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement on the polio supplementary vaccination campaign in Ghana. “The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has successfully completed the third round of its scheduled Polio SIA campaigns in eight regions despite the initial disruption caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Like many other health campaigns, Ghana’s polio campaign was significantly delayed. The work had originally been scheduled to begin in March, and was put on hold due to virus concerns. Similarly, Pakistan’s program operations changed in July to include stringent COVID-19 preventative operating procedures.

Still, despite the challenges, taking treatments from house to house has a key benefit that single-point delivery options do not: it prevents recipients from needing to leave their houses, which can help reduce virus transmission between patients. In the last month, door-to-door campaigns were successfully administered in Uganda, which distributed a cholera vaccine to 60,000 people, and Somalia, where mOPV2 drops were administered to 1.65 million children in the south and central regions.

The numbers show that, even with the added difficulties, door-to-door campaigns remain an extremely effective method of health intervention delivery. With some additional planning and protection for the healthcare workers, these campaigns will hopefully still be able to continue.

“Despite multiple challenges, our frontline workers remain committed and are the real heroes,” said Dr. Safdar.

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