Not All Mass Vaccination Campaigns Should Be Alike
By Stephanie Schorow for the Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaborative
March 11, 2022
The need for COVID-19 vaccinations is universal, but ways of effectively administering those vaccines can vary dramatically from country to country.
In Brazil, for example, the population is accustomed to mass vaccination campaigns and generally feels comfortable going to mass vaccination sites. In Haiti, many people are leery of the COVID-19 vaccine and need privacy to get their shots. In India, mobile vaccination units that can travel into the countryside proved essential for reaching the population.
These were among the lessons that nonprofit Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) learned as they launched efforts with partners to get shots in as many arms as possible as quickly as possible once the vaccines were released.
“The process of CORE is to explore where are the gaps in the community and how we can best serve (to fill) those gaps,” said Matthew McCoy, a health science specialist and a program manager at CORE, during a March 11, 2022, presentation to the Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaboration, an initiative by Ariadne Labs and the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Boost Community.
McCoy outlined the similarities and dissimilarities in CORE’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Haiti, Brazil, India, and the United States.
CORE began promoting testing in the early days of the pandemic in Haiti. This work eventually shifted to vaccination, but many of the lessons of organization and outreach still applied. As in all of its work, CORE seeks to partner with local institutions, and this ranged from partnering with fire-fighting departments in Los Angeles to public health centers in Brazil.
McCoy said mass vaccination sites proved to be very important in Rio de Janeiro
Brazil, which has a history of large vaccine campaigns. Establishing mass vaccination sites allowed local health clinics to maintain their focus on other health and medical issues. “We built a mass vaccination center next to a local clinic and that really helped,” he said.
Since many Rio residents commute long distances for work, mass sites were more effective than mobile sites because so many residents were not home during the day.
In India, at first vaccines could only be administered at hospitals, which proved to be a barrier for many residents. When this rule changed, CORE was able to organize mobile units that could reach directly to those who had concerns or hesitancy.
The infrastructure in Haiti remains very weakened by earthquakes and political unrest, and CORE found Haitians hesitant about getting vaccines in public. The use of screens and one-on-one consultation made the vaccination process more intimate and thus more acceptable.
McCoy’s March 11 presentation produced a host of questions and comments from participants who checked in from various places around the globe.
“I’m interested in your comment about Brazil’s history of mass vaccination campaigns leading to less vaccine hesitancy. What can we learn from this history to help with hesitancy challenges elsewhere and drive demand?” was one question.
“That’s not to say there is no hesitancy in Brazil. You’re going to encounter hesitancy everywhere,” McCoy responded. But through Brazil’s universal health care system, traditional vaccines are free and accessible. Everyone (gets shots) from children to adults — this creates a culture where you get your shot and you don’t really think about it.”
- Know the local culture when creating a vaccine campaign.
- Build knowledge and trust by working with local partners.
- Stay flexible. One day only a few will show up for shots; the next day the line will go out the door.
- Learn from doing. CORE experienced some trial and effort moments.
- Proximity is important — try to provide vaccinations where the public is likely to be, either a home or in a center like a soccer stadium.
- Health professionals may need training in administering vaccines; not all EMTs, for example, know how to give shots.
The Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaborative was launched as a way for stakeholders directing vaccination campaigns around the world to come together and learn from each other’s efforts. This blog series was created to record and share the learning and insights gained from this collaboration. Read blogs from our previous meetings here.