Working together to unlock the lifesaving power of data
2018 marks the 20th anniversary of WHO and UNICEF’s Joint Reporting Form (JRF) on Immunization – a single form used by all countries to record data on national immunization rates and cases of vaccine-preventable diseases; track vaccine supply and pricing; and monitor immunization schedules and policies. Since the introduction of the form in 1998, immunization data for more than 2.7 billion newborns have been recorded using the JRF.
But collection of immunization data did not start as a joint WHO-UNICEF process. While our two organizations both began collecting national immunization coverage data in the late 1970s, as part of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), which aims to make vaccines available to all children, we collected it independently, at different times of the year, and using different methods.
This approach produced differing global coverage estimates, making it challenging for the international community to use these estimates to target support where it was most needed. The dual reporting approach also placed a heavy burden on countries, requiring them to collect and report data twice each year. The JRF was a game changer – this joint WHO-UNICEF, worldwide immunization data collection process using uniform methodology and resulting in a single set of more robust estimates, which is not only instrumental in helping immunization stakeholders and partners monitor immunization progress towards targets of the Global Vaccine Action Plan, but is also critical in measuring the impact of global immunization investments.
In 1998, when the JRF was first launched, most country immunization programmes offered vaccination against six diseases – diphtheria, measles, pertussis, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis – and focused mainly on children under one year of age.
Today, scientific progress and development have expanded the scope of immunization programmes: countries now vaccinate against a minimum of 10 diseases, the number of available vaccines has more than tripled, and vaccinations are now delivered throughout the life-course. These changes have brought a need for more sophisticated monitoring and data systems that can track and manage this increased programme complexity.
In response, innovations in data collection enable the JRF to not only collect data on vaccination coverage and the number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases, it also tracks the prices of vaccines in 195 countries, and records progress against global immunization goals.
See the full Commentary From Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, WHO and Robin Nandy, Principal Advisor & Chief of Immunizations, UNICEF