Zimbabwe’s bold step paves the way for immunization progress
By Tatenda Chimbwanda
KADOMA: As the country continues to build on the efforts to bring vaccination back on track after the disruptive impact of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe conducted a Comprehensive Expanded Program on Immunization Review (CEPIR), in Kadoma from September 18 to 22, 2023. The CEPIR aimed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each immunization component to inform the development of evidence-based recommendations for the necessary changes and improvements to the immunization program. The exercise was carried out with the support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Crown Agency and UNICEF.
The CEPIR is a multistage exercise that primarily involves a desk review and a field-based review. This workshop finalized the desk review report, zero dose assessment report, and initiated field data collection. This critical meeting precedes the upcoming field data collection exercise scheduled from September 25 to 29, 2023. The field data collection will supplement and validate findings from the desk review and zero dose analysis.
“We view the comprehensive Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) review as a great opportunity to reflect on and learn from our immunization system’s performance over the past years. We plan to enhance service provision, aiming to reach all target individuals in line with the government of Zimbabwe’s mantra of leaving no one and no place behind,” said Ms Tshuma, MoHCC Deputy Director of Community Nursing.
WHO, at headquarters, regional and country office, is providing critical coordination support for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the CEPIR. The WHO has also provided financial support for the CEPIR.
“The comprehensive EPI review is one of the critical activities to play a significant part in the improvement of immunization service delivery. We commend the government of Zimbabwe for undertaking this crucial activity at this most opportune time, which will provide the necessary evidence to strategize towards immunization,” said WHO Zimbabwe Surveillance Officer, Dr. Maxwell Rupfutse.
The findings from the CEPIR will play a crucial role in shaping the strategic planning for immunization services in Zimbabwe. This includes updating the National Immunization Strategy and crafting annual operational plans. Moreover, these findings hold immense significance in securing additional resources for the EPI program, both from domestic sources and external funding partners.
As a committed Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Partner, Crown Agents recognizes the significance of this EPI review in facilitating a comprehensive evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the national immunization program at various levels, including national, subnational, and service delivery.
“We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the enrichment of our EPI program, and we remain dedicated to supporting its success,” said Crown Agents Managing Director, Mrs Muchaneta Mwonzora.
Following the desk review workshop, the team will embark on field visits, to gather additional information on the immunization program at all levels within the country. The scope of these visits will cover seven provinces purposively selected based on performance in routine immunization and surveillance. These provinces are Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Midlands, and Matabeleland South, with three districts per province. Additionally, two health facilities per district will be included in the assessment. To obtain valuable insights from clients and communities regarding the provision of immunization services in their respective areas, observations on the quality of immunization sessions and exit interviews will be conducted.
Notably, areas that demonstrate high performance will be closely examined to identify best practices and lessons learnt, which will subsequently inform targeted interventions aimed at strengthening service provision in underperforming areas. Therefore, after the field exercise a data analysis and report writing will be conducted, the findings will be used to guide strategic actions and improvements in the immunization program.
This meeting serves as a testament to Zimbabwe’s commitment to reinforcing its immunization program and ensuring every child receives life-saving vaccines.