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How COVID-19 Vaccines Make It The Last Mile Around the World

A Black woman wearing blue medical scrubs handles a COVID-19 vaccine.

Courtesy of CARE

Courtesy of CARE

The world was able to administer 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine within 4 months of starting widespread vaccination campaigns. CARE is jumping in to support vaccination efforts in 23 countries around the world.

It’s dizzying trying to keep up with the COVID-19 vaccination news. The numbers change dramatically every day, and they are so complex that it’s hard to know what they mean.

But, we’re got reason to celebrate. The world was able to administer 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine within 4 months of starting widespread vaccination campaigns — something we have never before accomplished. 1.16 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered by May 3. It took real commitment, creativity, and collective effort through groups like COVAX that have created unprecedented tools to get more than 49 million vaccines to people who need it most in countries that don’t manufacture vaccines.

Yet we’ve still got a long way to go. As with everything else in COVID-19, the global numbers mask serious inequalities. The UK has partially vaccinated at least 52% of their population, and the US has 44%. On the other hand, India is struggling under a massive COVID-19 surge, and only has 9% of their population partially vaccinated. Some countries — like South Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo — have vaccinated less than 0.1% of their people, even partially.

Countries are facing three major challenges right now: under investments in vaccine rollout and the healthcare workers who deliver them; people’s reluctance to get the vaccine; and difficulties getting enough vaccines.

A factory medical staff getting COVID-19 vaccine

CARE is jumping in to support vaccination efforts in 23 countries around the world, with the creativity and local expertise you would expect to meet such a complex problem. Our activities range from setting up hospitals in India to helping train vaccinators and volunteers in Bangladesh, to distributing vaccines in South Sudan. In other countries, we’re helping governments plan local vaccination campaigns or hosting large scale education campaigns to get people the information they need to feel comfortable getting the vaccine.

What are we doing?

Helping people trust vaccines. 19 countries are helping run vaccine education campaigns to build trust and share accurate information. That includes a unique partnership running Facebook ad campaigns that will help people access information about vaccines. In Congo, the team is using their experience with Ebola education to build trust around vaccines. Benin is using radio shows and working with community leaders to raise awareness around vaccines. Nepal is helping women in communities who volunteer on health issues to share information about vaccines.

Getting vaccines where they’re needed most. Nine countries are helping connect vaccines to the last mile delivery posts, where people can access them. Bangladesh is working with the government to support vaccine rollout in hard-to-reach areas and populations. South Sudan is planning with local governments to get vaccines distributed beyond the national capital. Pakistan supports local governments with training and advocacy campaigns risk communication sessions.

Delivering vaccines. In South Sudan, the CARE team has set up two vaccination stations and is supporting the government to administer vaccines to people. Iraq provided support to two hospitals to set up vaccination centers.

Protect and empower frontline health workers. Eight countries are working directly with frontline health workers — from training volunteers in Bangladesh and Iraq to helping health workers in Benin plan their education campaigns. In the Philippines, the team is raising the profile of all of the efforts health workers are doing right now, and helping them monitor what’s happening.

Over 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide.

How are we doing it?

Support good data for decisions. In Bihar, they are working with the Government to identify, reach, and support all frontline health workers — public and private. They are also helping design the reporting format and providing IT expertise to keep the data working and help maintain the COVID data portal.

Using technology to reach people. CARE Pakistan is rolling out an e-health component in 15 districts to answer questions about COVID-19 and complications. The campaign uses voice messages, text messages, and call-in numbers so people can get customized information they need about their own eligibility and accessing vaccines. Benin is using radio shows, Philippines is creating Facebook campaigns. The teams are picking the methods that are most likely to be effective in their own context.

Advocating for policy changes. In Ecuador CARE led the advocacy coalition to ask the President and other national authorities to publicly launch the national vaccination plan, create a coordination mechanism among the international cooperation and the local government, and support implementation. The team is also helping connect communities to governments to report progress on the vaccination plan and increase accountability and transparency. Seven CARE country teams are involved in advocacy to increase transparency and make vaccines more available for the people who need them most.

Collaborate with others. Eleven country teams are supporting their national planning committees on vaccine rollout, and supporting the NGO vaccine forum to coordinate vaccination efforts.

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