WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid the evolving global challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, immunization professionals must now grapple with deploying routine immunization services in a daunting and ever-shifting landscape. In a recent survey of 800 immunization professionals conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) and other key partners, 64 percent of respondents reported significant disruptions to immunization in their country or community, with either zero or limited outreach activities taking place and fewer visits to vaccination posts. To strengthen immunization professionals’ ability to navigate the complex challenges of their work, Sabin launched the Boost Community (Boost), a global network dedicated to serving immunization professionals, supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Immunization professionals must be equipped with a mindset oriented toward problem-solving, steeped in professionalism and grounded in resilience. Boost supports this vision through trainings, peer-to-peer engagement and collaborative learning. Since the network launched in early 2020, its membership has swelled in number and diversity, attracting nearly 900 individual members from more than 100 countries.
For its first major training program, Boost has joined forces with The Geneva Learning Foundation and Adaptive Change Advisors to develop and teach a six-week digital Scholar Level 1 certification course in adaptive leadership for immunization. The course, which began on May 26 with more than 400 learners, draws on the Geneva Learning Foundation’s proven Scholar package of interventions used since 2016 by immunization teams in 95 countries and the 'Adaptive Leadership' approach developed at Harvard University.
The course will train immunization professionals to diagnose the system they are operating within; distinguish and define technical and adaptive problems; and lead consequential change within the immunizations systems they operate in today. During the era of COVID-19, these skills can protect human health by empowering immunization professionals to serve as key advocates for themselves and for routine immunization.
“Leveraging Boost to share this innovative leadership training course signals to the global health community that we want to invest in immunization professionals not just as workers, but as leaders who can drive progress in their communities,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, Sabin’s president of global immunization. “The Sabin team looks forward to empowering immunization professionals in their critical, lifesaving work through this course and beyond.”
Adaptive leadership, the backbone of the course, is a set of strategies and techniques for mobilizing change in challenging and uncertain contexts. Isolation, burnout and limited resources are common challenges shared by immunization professionals. The era of COVID-19 introduces another layer of complexity; with reallocated program resources and decreased demand for routine immunization campaigns, immunization professionals must be nimble and develop new approaches to reach communities with critical, life-saving vaccines. Applicants to the course stressed the need for enhanced leadership and team-building skills during this time.
“As a frontline immunization worker in a developing country that is faced with challenges of no or inadequate access to essential primary care including immunization services; the adaptive leadership program on immunization especially in midst of COVID-19 pandemic crisis globally is very critical… and helpful,” noted Feisal Yarrow, a Boost member and sub-national Ministry of Health immunization professional from Kenya.
“The connections and learnings that the Boost community enables could transform the immunization landscape,” said Dr. Richard Mihigo, program area manager, immunization and vaccine development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa. “Immunization professionals who are better prepared to accelerate progress in their communities have the potential to reduce the numbers of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people, and address longstanding disparities in immunization coverage.”
This new course is just one way that Boost fosters collaboration and learning among immunization professionals. The community also offers online events and discussion series, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boost is launching a special learning group for supervisors to receive guidance and support from Boost and its partners as they make difficult decisions for their teams or countries.
“The ability to forge connections between experts and implementers across the world is a major advantage of the Boost platform,” said Dr. Ranjana Kumar, senior specialist, Leadership Management and Coordination at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi). “There is great appetite for professional development and learning among this group. Gavi applauds Sabin for recognizing the essential role that immunization professionals play in shaping robust health systems, and for finding new ways to support them in their work.”
Boost will serve as a forum to generate knowledge, enable connection with peers and empower immunization professionals by acknowledging the critical role that they play in shaping human health across the globe. Through this work, Sabin hopes to spur positive ripple effects from improved immunization program performance to a world where all people, everywhere receive the vaccines they need to thrive.
Boost is open to all professionals and partners working in the immunization field, especially those involved with managing or implementing immunization programs at the national and sub-national levels. Register on the Boost website to join the community today.
About the Sabin Vaccine Institute
The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a leading advocate for expanding vaccine access and uptake globally, advancing vaccine research and development, and amplifying vaccine knowledge and innovation. Unlocking the potential of vaccines through partnership, Sabin has built a robust ecosystem of funders, innovators, implementers, practitioners, policy makers and public stakeholders to advance its vision of a future free from preventable diseases. As a non-profit with more than two decades of experience, Sabin is committed to finding solutions that last and extending the full benefits of vaccines to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live. At Sabin, we believe in the power of vaccines to change the world. For more information, visit www.sabin.org and follow us on Twitter, @SabinVaccine.
About Adaptive Change Advisors
Adaptive Change Advisors (ACA) is the premier mission-based Adaptive Leadership organization worldwide. ACA’s mission is to 'democratize leadership', putting leadership tools that drive change into the hands of anyone who seeks meaningful outcomes. ACA is especially committed to developing the leadership required to tackle pressing adaptive challenges of our times, such as promoting health access and equity, transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and strengthening democracy. ACA’s work has touched people in 140+ countries through a combination of in-person and online leadership experiences.
About the Geneva Learning Foundation
The Geneva Learning Foundation is a Swiss non-profit with the mission to develop trial, and scale up new ways to lead change to tackle the challenges that threaten our societies. Since 2016, the Foundation has developed an immunization programme using a package of purely-digital interventions to support health workers, from the health facility to the capital, to lead the transformation of knowledge into action, results, and impact. For more information, visit www.learning.foundation and follow us on Twitter @DigitalScholarX.
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