Supporting COVID-19 Vaccination in Senegal
COVID-19 is still testing health systems around the globe; disrupting large segments of the economy; and having unexpected consequences, such as delaying Senegal’s departure to the African Cup of Nations due to players testing positive, and the need for mass vaccination is critical to avoid the occurrence of severe cases and deaths.
Senegal, through its Expanded Vaccination Program (PEV in French), has extensive experience in the vaccination of children under five as part of the country’s routine health care activities and through specific PEV campaigns. The country decided to leverage the existing mechanism for COVID-19 vaccination of its population. However, COVID-19 vaccination required a number of adaptations to the PEV, including targeting an adult population instead of children and adopting additional and targeted service provision strategies, a data management system that shares weekly instead of monthly data for optimal stock monitoring of vaccine doses that are received intermittently, and an appropriate waste management system.
To support the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, the USAID Medicines, Technologies, and Pharmaceutical Services (MTaPS) Program provided technical and financial support to the medical region of Dakar, which is the region most impacted by the pandemic with 66% of cumulated cases. MTaPS’ support focused on developing COVID-19 vaccination microplans, which are documents used to help identify and manage activities at the regional and district levels, and putting them into action to reach priority population groups.
Implementing COVID-19 Vaccination Microplans
In October 2021, a workshop was organized and facilitated by the medical region of Dakar, with support from MTaPS, with the heads of all 12 health districts of Dakar. During this workshop, a microplan template was adopted by all participants. The template provided for planning activities related to decentralized service provision strategies (e.g., providing vaccines in a health center, reaching individual patients directly, using a mobile clinic for zones without a health center); data, waste, and adverse events following immunization management; strengthening the capacity of service providers; and communications around risks and community engagement.
Following the adoption of the microplan template and to jumpstart the COVID-19 vaccination, the Ministry of Health and Social Action’s PEV requested nationwide development of microplans in all medical regions and health districts.
Ms. Mame Diarra Diagne Ndour, Dakar’s regional vaccination focal point, indicates: “Thanks to the funding and technical support to develop the microplans with the districts, we were able to standardize our interventions and prioritize our activities. This facilitated the coordination and monitoring of activity implementation.”
Additionally, MTaPS provided field support to develop terms of reference; supervise the campaigns; and guide health professionals to organize mass vaccination campaigns designed to vaccinate as many people as possible in three to seven days, which is a priority service provision strategy included in the microplans. These mass vaccination days held across all Dakar districts enabled 12,889 people to be vaccinated between September and December 2021.
“Many people got infected lately, myself included. It is our responsibility, as citizens, to stand in the way of this disease and this includes getting […] vaccinated. […] This for me is a call for everyone to be responsible and to make this investment at his or her personal level to contain the virus,” shared Mr. Axel MBoko, a geologist and project manager in water, health, and sanitation.
For Ms. Kine Willane, an entrepreneur living in Dakar, COVID-19 vaccination needs to be included in the long list of public health combats: “We were lucky to avoid diseases such as measles, yellow fever, or whooping cough thanks to our mothers who got us vaccinated. The least we can do is to do like our mothers and protect our loved ones by getting vaccinated.”
To increase vaccination coverage in the country, MTaPS continues to support the Ministry by helping implement the COVID-19 vaccination microplans at the central and operational levels.