The introduction of a new vaccine provides many opportunities as well as challenges to improve a country’s overall immunization programme as well as its health services and health system. Many of the activities carried out to prepare, implement and monitor the introduction of COVID-19 vaccination will provide opportunities to improve the immunization programme and to identify best practices that could be applied to other health programmes and services. Activities that should be integrated into the national primary health care (PHC) operational framework include: microplanning, using an evidence-based decision-making process to govern the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine; strengthening human resource management; training for new vaccine introduction; establishing new contact points for vaccination across the life course; ensuring traceability systems and technologies are leveraged to ensure the integrity and efficiency of supply chains, improving and expanding integrated project management and the supply chain; enhancing integrated disease surveillance and adverse events following immunization (AEFI) monitoring and reporting systems; and conducting integrated advocacy and communications activities to promote demand for vaccination as part of increasing overall demand and acceptability of all essential PHC services. Moreover, the most vulnerable include older populations, therefore building capacity for adult immunizations, including synergy of COVID-19 vaccine with influenza vaccination, will be important.
Gavi and Swiss TPH came into a framework agreement for an initial period of 13 months until 31st December 2021, with the possibility to extend for an additional 12 months until 31st December 2022 to bring support to the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) of 11 countries. The Gambia is one of these countries for which SCIH/SPMU has signed a technical assistance mandate to deliver some of the above mentioned activities in the framework of COVID-19 vaccine introduction.