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Increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Central and West Asia

21st April 2023

The Vaccine Advisory Firm campaign, delivered by Crown Agents, funded by the Asian Development Bank

Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and delivered by Crown Agents and FHI 360 from 2021-2023, the Vaccine Advisory Firm (VAF) for Central and West Asia delivered technical assistance for vaccine development, procurement, and delivery to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The Central and West Asia region faces several health challenges, amongst others a lack of resources for capacity building of health workers. In relation to COVID-19, the programme’s preliminary research suggested that the public lacked confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the newly-produced vaccines, especially in relation to fertility, as well as viewing COVID-19 as a low-risk disease, amongst others.

As a result, a critical aspect of the programme was to support countries on counteracting vaccine hesitancy, one identified barrier to meeting national vaccination targets. To achieve this, VAF worked with the countries to identify best strategies and approaches to urgently correct misinformation and increase trust in COVID-19 vaccines and the national immunization programmes.
Following a thorough situation analysis in close collaboration with ADB, VAF developed a training video clips concept to ensure a rapid knowledge dissemination in all target countries about the benefits of vaccination.

Targeting health workers and leveraging VAF’s knowledge and research studies in the region, VAF structured the content of the video clips to cover four key technical objectives, including:

(i) Immunization regulatory– Addressing why people should feel safe and assured about vaccination from a regulatory perspective.
(ii) Immunization scientific– Addressing why vaccinating is safer than non-vaccinating.
(iii) Immunization process– Addressing how to ensure safe delivery of vaccination.
(iv) Supply chain– Addressing information about end-to-end vaccine supply chain management.

Screenshot 2023-04-21 at 13.24.28

While VAF’s approach considered the countries and their needs individually, the programme generated cooperation in the region with governments, institutions, and partners. Working closely with ADB, governments, vaccine suppliers and manufacturers, Antares—a regional film producer based in the Kyrgyz Republic, and supported by the Crown Agents Communications Team, VAF directed the production of the videos in such a way that they were suitable for health workers and non-health worker groups, encouraging all target groups to become advocates of vaccination.

As part of the video clip dissemination plan, VAF conducted an online survey amongst the countries’ governments and health institutions to verify the intended use of the video clips amongst the health worker communities. The programme received very positive responses. The countries provided clear positive feedback about the quality, comprehensiveness, relevance and expected effectiveness of VAF’s video clips as tools to help reduce vaccine hesitancy. The countries highlighted their intention to integrate the video clips in their national immunization training programmes, specifically targeting specific health worker groups. They also confirmed their plans to disseminate the video clips widely using a range of methods, including posting them on Ministry of Health (MOH) websites, WhatsApp groups, YouTube channels, as well as educational forums such as medical study and training centers.
To maximize usage, the videos were filmed in Russian, with subtitles in English and Russian, as well as seven local languages to ensure no communication barriers. The material can be publicly accessed via VAF’s YouTube channel.