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Digitisation to boost immunisation coverage

Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. Because of it an estimated 2 – 3 million deaths per year are averted, according to a recent report.

In 2017, a record of 123 million children were immunised globally. Effective immunisation programs have led to a world closer to eradicating polio, while measles vaccination has resulted in an 84% drop in deaths during 2000-2016.

Despite these achievements, progress on immunisation has slowed down in the current decade. As of August 2018, 71 countries have yet to achieve the Global Vaccine Action Plan target of 90%, or having greater coverage of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine.

Significant efforts and resources are dedicated to supporting, maintaining, and improving immunisation strategies to achieve the goals set by national and international health agencies.

However, maintaining a high-performance immunisation program is one of the most challenging public health objectives.

A plethora of issues have become real threats for maintaining coverage, running effective surveillance, and allowing immunisation programs to react in a timely manner to new problems.

These issues include logistics management, under-reporting and under-recognition of adverse effects following immunisation, reduction of public confidence in vaccinations, and lack of effective communication strategy for vaccine promotion.

One way forward is to adopt rapidly developing digital health tools that offer solutions to improve service delivery.

Digitisation can help boost the capability of providers to make immunisation health value chains more efficient and resilient.

Digital tools are highly productive in several vaccine-related areas such as immunisation registries, dose tracking, and decision support systems.

Digital tools can also contribute in vaccine-preventable diseases surveillance, surveillance of adverse events following immunisation, vaccine confidence monitoring, and delivery of information on vaccines to the public.

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a powerful tool to identify gaps and inequities in access to immunisation services.

It would contribute to improved decision support systems, leading to effective and efficient service delivery.

Moreover, GIS will support better decision-making on targeting immunisation resources.

It will help in integrating, visualising and analysing data on immunisation resources, population distribution and the connecting geographic environment as well as model accessibility to health services.

Having a better integration of immunisation information system as well as a Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) data architecture has the potential to provide transformative improvements in both systems.

It will address the issue of resource constraint settings by streamlining and extending registration coverage, integrating data from multiple systems, and securely storing data at scale.

More importantly, all will be done in a cost-effective way.

A fully functioning CRVS data will be able to support health programs since it makes real-time data available to expand immunisation coverage. Health workers, for instance, can notify civil registrars of births and deaths.

A digital architecture is essential to attain interoperability between health programs, CRVS, and related systems such as unique health identifiers.

To achieve interoperability, it is vital to work with communities to address issues of confidentiality, privacy, and data security within a sound legal and governance framework.

Joint capacities and human resources need to be developed to implement the innovations.

Social workers, case managers, school employees, and community health workers must be trained on notifications of births and deaths to guarantee that these are officially registered according to international standards.

Having a Logistics Management Information System (LMIS) will aid in providing data on vaccine supply and demand, thereby reaching more children with greater efficiency.

Digitisation can improve LMIS through a standardised data collection, quick data transmission throughout the system, error reduction, and automated reports that highlight the best course of action.

Strong vaccine supply chains guarantee that children have access to the right vaccines, at the right time, in the right place.

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