Implementing nationwide measles supplemental immunization activities in Ethiopia in the context of COVID-19: process and lessons learnt
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted immunization activities in many countries, causing declines in the delivery of routine doses of antigens, and the postponement of scheduled supplemental immunization activities (SIAs). Following the declaration of the pandemic, Ethiopia postponed nationwide follow-up measles preventive vaccination campaign which was scheduled for April 2020. The disruptions to routine services and the postponement of the SIAs increased the risk for measles outbreaks. The national authorities, in consultation with the secretariat of the National COVID-19 Pandemic Prevention and Control Ministerial Coordination Committee, subnational level authorities, technical partner agencies and stakeholders, reviewed the risks for measles outbreaks and decided to implement the nationwide measles SIAs, with strict implementation of COVID prevention measures. The revised micro-plans accommodated the additional human resource and logistics needs for COVID prevention, for which partner resources were mobilized to fill the gaps. The key SIAs preparatory and implementation activities including training, logistics, social mobilization, service delivery and supervision were modified to take into consideration the COVID context. Infection prevention and control supplies were procured and distributed as a package with the bundled vaccines and other supplies. The SIAs were completed in July 2020 and reached 102.8% administrative coverage nationwide, with 78% of the 1123 woredas attaining the target of 95% coverage. The strong commitment of the leadership, the coordination role of the national and regional COVID prevention and control taskforces, the engagement of community leaders, the use of multi-channel communication, the timely availability of additional resources and modification of the service delivery approaches contributed to the success of the SIAs.