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In response to chronic under-capacity in the immunization workforce in Africa, Merck launched the Merck Vaccine Network-Africa, a philanthropic initiative to train immunization managers in Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia. Merck’s experience designing and supporting the Merck Vaccine Network-Africa offers valuable lessons that can help other funders, governments, and non-governmental organizations designing or implementing similar vaccine delivery training programs improve the effectiveness and sustainability of their work.

Top Takeaways

  1. The Merck Vaccine Network-Africa used a competitive grant process to select 4 focus countries; adapted existing training modules from the global Expanded Program of Immunization; employed a train-the-trainer model to reach immunization managers and health workers; and created partnerships between each local program and a center of expertise.
  2. The Merck Vaccine Network-Africa effectively increased the skills and knowledge of Expanded Program of Immunization workers, contributed to improved immunization rates in the geographies where it was implemented, and helped boost health worker morale in resource-constrained health systems suffering from low motivation and high turnover.
  3. Merck’s experience designing and supporting Merck Vaccine Network-Africa offers valuable lessons for other actors in the immunization and broader global health field, including: conduct a rigorous needs assessment, create a sustainability plan from the outset, embed programs into local health systems, and facilitate and support regular convening and communication.
Going forward, it is critical that immunization training be elevated as a priority on the global health agenda, ensuring that adequate funding and attention are committed to this important global health intervention.