UniSA researchers are evaluating a new vaccination education initiative - the COVID-19 Peer Hub - to help immunization and public health professionals to tackle the emerging dangers of vaccine hesitancy amid the pandemic.
From March to April 2020, more than 50 per cent of immunization programs around the world have reported significant disruptions to their vaccination services.
The new program is developed and delivered by The Geneva Learning Foundation, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the COVID-19 Peer Hub program is connecting more than 4000 immunization professionals across the globe - most of them working in developing countries - in a bid to keep essential vaccination programs open and safe during COVID-19.
UniSA's Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning has been engaged by the Geneva Learning Foundation to research the COVID-19 Peer Hub. Preliminary findings show that it is fostering new approaches for immunization staff who often remain the most trusted advisors and influencers of vaccination decisions.
Reda Sadki, President of The Geneva Learning Foundation says overcoming vaccine hesitancy is now a primary challenge for immunization professionals.
In 2020, immunization has never been more important. But amid the pandemic, routine immunization services have been severely disrupted, leaving more than 80 million children under the age of one at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Because of the infectious nature of COVID-19, many people have been reluctant to bring their children to public health facilities for fear of infection. But, by avoiding immunizations, they're placing their children at risk of other vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, polio, rubella and rotavirus, which can be life-threatening for very young children."
Reda Sadki, President, The Geneva Learning Foundation
The Geneva Learning Foundation COVID-19 Peer Hub is working to remedy this by providing a forum for thousands of immunization professionals to connect and share new ideas and existing practices to tackle vaccine hesitancy, maintain immunization coverage despite the pandemic, and prepare for COVID-19 vaccines.
UniSA project lead, Dr Vitomir Kovanovi, says such initiatives are critical for building collective wisdom that can be leveraged and adapted to counteract vaccine avoidance.
"Current information sharing processes are hierarchical and slow, losing too much information as it progresses down the chain," Dr Kovanovi? says.
"By connecting immunization professionals from around the world, there is a fantastic opportunity for sharing new ideas and existing practices that can contribute to maintain immunization coverage during the pandemic.
"Importantly, with more than more than 90 per cent of participants reporting that the program has been useful for their work, we're clearly onto a good thing."
Reda Sadki, President of The Geneva Learning Foundation says that education initiative has delivered a valuable and timely resource for health professionals.
"We were already building a digital platform to support immunization staff when the pandemic hit," Sadki says.
"We had very little time to pivot. The Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning has provided - just in time - the capability, talent, and tools we needed to make sense of the deluge of data that participants have been generating.
"Furthermore, these data are empowering immunization staff to generate ideas and turn them into action and results, while informing ministries of health and global partners in ways that simply would not be possible without learning analytics. The Centre is truly helping us 'close the learning loop'."