Lessons Learned and Good Practices: Country-Specific Case Studies on Immunization Activities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Executive Summary

Health systems throughout the world have been rapidly overwhelmed and compromised by the COVID-19 crisis. Essential health services and routine immunization programmes that are normally strengthened by supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) and national campaigns have been severely affected. WHO’s second pulse poll on continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that, of the 61 countries where national respondents reported on the current status, 85 per cent reported lower levels of vaccination in May–June 2020 than January–February 2020. The main reasons for the disruption to immunization services were low availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers (49 per cent), travel restrictions (40 per cent), and low availability of health workers (43 per cent). As of April 2021, 50 countries have had at least one vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) campaign postponed during the pandemic.

As the global health community takes steps to recover lost ground, this report aims to highlight the good practices and lessons learned from countries that have reinstated immunization campaigns despite the wide-reaching impact and challenges caused by COVID-19. To guide countries in this process, WHO developed a decision-making framework and operational guidelines to help countries establish the risks and benefits of conducting a campaign, and the principles to consider during planning and implementation to ensure the safety of communities.

This report documents the challenges and achievements of six countries, learning from the experiences of countries that have been able to reinstate campaigns. Data, information and insights were collected between February and April 2021 from various sources, including interviews with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) regional and country office staff, documents and published articles. Six countries with robust and valuable experience implementing immunization campaigns – Angola, Bangladesh, India, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Yemen – were included as case studies.

These case studies will form part of a learning initiative for national and subnational service planners, managers and providers to enable:

  • Maintenance of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Immunization service recovery in the post-acute phase
  • Sustained transformation and strengthening of immunization services in the post-pandemic phase

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