Preparing community health workers to deploy the COVID-19 vaccine: Five lessons on digital training learned from the Ebola crisis.

Posted on 05/10/2021

Five years ago, Grameen Foundation joined the Ebola vaccine Deployment, Acceptance and Compliance (EBODAC) consortium — a public-private partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Janssen Pharmaceutical N.V., World Vision and Grameen Foundation, and funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative — to respond to a very different health crisis: the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Ebola claimed the lives of over 11,000 people between 2014–2016. But in the years since the outbreak, a series of experimental vaccine regimens tested in Sierra Leone by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson have been recommended for approval, providing hope that such an outbreak could be minimized or prevented in the future.

Grameen Foundation, in partnership with World Vision, supported the Ebola vaccine trials in Sierra Leone by digitally enabling community health facilities and part-time community health workers (CHWs) for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone. This support included several components: We helped community health facilities digitally schedule appointments for trial participants to receive their vaccines using Grameen’s Mobile Technology for Community Health platform, and reminded them of their booster vaccine administered eight weeks later, as well as their follow-up medical appointments. And we conducted virtual refresher trainings on outbreak responses and vaccinations with CHWs using an interactive voice response (IVR) system Grameen called the Mobile Training and Support (MOTS) service.

Our experience with Ebola provided us with important lessons on how to leverage digital solutions to address disease outbreaks and other health crises. These lessons can help inform efforts to deploy COVID-19 vaccinations through CHWs. We’ll share five of those lessons below.

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