The University of Michigan’s Center for Global Health Equity has awarded $1.9 million to two research teams working to ensure eligible recipients in low- and middle-income settings will have full, affordable access to recommended vaccinations.
The teams have co-designed their projects with global partners, and each project is expected to create a significant impact on improving vaccination rates.
The first project is led by Gershim Asiki, a research scientist at the African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and Emily Treleaven, research assistant professor at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.
The project — The Next Generation Vaccine Card — was awarded $1.1 million and will develop a user-friendly digital vaccine card and local registry that facilitates the electronic collection of individual data at health facilities. The card will allow improved monitoring of vaccine coverage and timeliness by health-care providers and parents.
“A digital vaccine card will revolutionize vaccination coverage by bridging the equity gaps in rural and urban settings in East Africa through better access to accurate vaccination status information and maintenance of current records of child vaccinations by health-care providers for tracking missing or delayed vaccinations,” Asiki said.
A central feature of the digital card is that it overcomes the problem of lost, damaged or destroyed paper copies of vaccination records.
“The proposal to develop a digital vaccine card in collaboration with Kenyan and Ugandan partners directly tackles one of the most enduring challenges of childhood vaccination — the lost vaccine card,” said Matthew Boulton, senior associate dean for global public health at the School of Public Health.
“Providing an easily accessible digital shot record for ready use by moms, clinicians and health departments has the potential to overcome the unrealistic expectation that a vaccine card can always be available on demand.”
The other project is led by Harapan Harapan of the University of Syiah Kuala School of Medicine in Indonesia, and Abram Wagner, research assistant professor in epidemiology at the School of Public Health.
Trusted Faces, Familiar Places was awarded $826,700. The team is working to create a paradigm shift in how the public views and utilizes vaccination services.
“Currently, community health centers remain the default setting for vaccination, and clinicians the default administrators. But many have difficulty accessing these clinics or trusting traditional vaccination providers, particularly if they are members of communities with low socioeconomic status,” Harapan said. “Our project addresses both trust and ease of access.”
By mobilizing religious communities to discuss vaccines, the goal is to counter a reported lack of information about vaccines among unvaccinated families. By training more community health workers in vaccination and to physically deliver vaccines, the team will help ease access to vaccines.
“The inclusion of faith leaders and community health workers in Indonesia to assist with advocating for and administering vaccines holds tremendous promise for increasing vaccine coverage,” Boulton said.
Both projects ensure that all children in a community can receive on-time immunization to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases, many of which present significant barriers to achieving full health and well-being.
“Vaccine equity is a complex issue, and these co-designed projects bring a wealth of experience and innovation to the table,” said Joseph Kolars, director of the Center for Global Health Equity, Josiah Macy Jr. Professor of Health Professions Education and professor of internal medicine and of learning health sciences at the Medical School.