Ending the COVID-19 pandemic requires global solidarity and collective action. Despite this, less than 1% of vaccines administered to date have gone to people in low-income countries. There is, however, some good news. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the COVAX Facility, vaccine doses have begun arriving in many low and middle income countries, including in the countries where we work: Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. While much more work is needed to ensure vaccine equity, building the health workforce to administer life-saving vaccines is well underway.
Community and frontline health workers are essential for ending the COVID-19 pandemic. The health workers now tasked with administering the vaccine and supporting distribution have been working tirelessly at the forefront of the pandemic, and they continue to provide essential access to primary care despite the risks and uncertainty. To lead the world’s largest mass vaccination campaign, they need our investment and support.
Through Last Mile Health’s advocacy efforts, we are calling on the global community to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines to all countries, recognize the roles community health workers play in vaccination outreach, and vaccinate all community and frontline health workers.
Simultaneously, we are working to support our government partners on their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. Here are three examples of our recent work:
Liberia: Working to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy
Liberia has received 123,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses since an initial COVAX donation on March 5, 2021. Last Mile Health is working closely with the Liberia Ministry of Health as it prepares to distribute these and future vaccine doses. Our shared work includes supply chain management and a communications campaign to address vaccine hesitancy. The formal communications campaign will engage trusted individuals—including religious leaders, politicians, and community health workers—to help spread the word about the importance of getting vaccinated.
Malawi: Recording COVID-19 Vaccine Doses
As the first shipments of 360,00 COVID-19 vaccines begin to arrive in Malawi via the COVAX Facility, we’re supporting the Ministry of Health to ensure they are able to track vaccine recipients and follow-up doses. We provided technical support to customize a digital tracking tool that integrates into the national health information system. The Ministry of Health is rolling-out this tool nationwide to ensure health facilities across Malawi are able to track vaccine coverage, and target gaps when more vaccines become available.
Uganda: Training Health Workers to Administer the Vaccines
As of April 23, 2021, the Uganda Ministry of Health received 964,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX. Last Mile Health worked with the Ministry of Health to train over 3,000 master trainers and supervisors through a multi-day virtual training. These trainers in turn trained 5,000 frontline health workers and district leaders across 132 districts on vaccine administration. The Ministry of Health-approved training course, which was adapted from the online WHO COVID-19 vaccination course, is now available to all health workers in Uganda through the Ministry of Health Capacity Building App.