PVO and NGO Involvement in Immunization

Sustainable, effective partnerships between health ministries, service providers, and the community have the potential to improve access to immunization services and their utilization.

The Africa Routine Immunization System Essentials (ARISE) project found that in several health districts in Africa where essential immunization inputs (vaccines and related supplies, capable health personnel, and technical standards) were in place, an important driver of improved performance for routine immunization was a strong, dynamic partnership between health systems and communities. These partnerships connect public health planners, vaccination service providers, public administrators, community organizations, and informed community members to work toward improving the health of people and the communities where they live. By establishing strong relationships between communities and health systems, community stakeholders can coordinate to address gaps in services, carry out health education activities to promote the use of immunization services, and facilitate other community-based public health programs. Figure 2 illustrates this process.

Figure 2. Pathway to improving routine immunization coverage at the district level in Africa [i]

(ARISE project)

Because of their close relationships and distinct role in communities, PVOs and NGOs can make important contributions to immunization, particularly routine immunization, by carrying out any of a wide range of activities, such as these examples:

  • Directly immunize children and women.
  • Support district-level Ministry of Health (MOH) staff, with training and capacity building.
  • Advocate for resources so that immunization services are sufficiently supported.
  • Work with communities and health services to plan, monitor, and support vaccination activities in the following ways:
  • Arrange a clean outreach site (school or community meeting room, for example).
  • Transport vaccines and health workers, particularly for outreach sessions.
  • Inform community members when a health worker or team arrives at the outreach site.
  • Provide a meal to health workers when they are on outreach visits.
  • Register patients, control crowds, and make waiting areas more comfortable on the day of an outreach session.
  • Motivate and mobilize community members to use immunization and other primary health care services.
  • Deliver appropriate messages and dispel false rumors about immunization, if needed.
  • Assist with newborn and defaulter tracking; use birth registers and vaccination registers to identify people who have been missed by vaccination services (left-outs) and people who started but did not complete the vaccination schedule (drop-outs).
  • Arrange home visits when children are behind schedule in their immunizations to explain the benefits and motivate caregivers.
  • Provide equipment and financial support.

PVOs and NGOs have much information to teach partners about how to work with communities to increase the demand for vaccination and with peripheral health services to deliver services more effectively to meet that demand. Most countries have established a national-level Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) or equivalent collaboration mechanism. By participating in the ICC, PVOs and NGOs that are active in immunization efforts can play an important role in extending the reach of services into communities, encouraging their uptake, and complementing MOH immunization activities.

[i] LaFond A et al. Health Policy Plan. 2014; heapol.czu011