Global knowledge sharing: New PATH IDEAL-Vietnam project collaborates with BID Initiative
By Maya Rivera, Communications Officer, PATH
Photo: PATH/Cuong Nguyen Phu. A health worker uses Vietnam’s digital system for tracking immunization rates.
Vaccinations have saved the lives of more children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years, and an effective immunization approach is a critical factor in the eradication of disease. To be effective, however, doses must be administered at the appropriate intervals. Prior to 2012, all of Vietnam’s immunization records were paper-based. Time consuming, laborious, prone to errors, and a barrier to efficient vaccine stock management, this system was making it difficult to ensure children and pregnant women were getting the timely protection they needed to defend them from dangerous but preventable diseases.
Now in 2019, Vietnam has a digital system for tracking immunization rates and vaccine stocks in 99 percent of health centers nationwide. This is the National Immunization Information System (NIIS), which began as a PATH pilot in one district in Vietnam in 2012. Like the BID Initiative, which is also implementing an electronic immunization registry in Tanzania and Zambia, PATH worked closely with the government to ensure its success.
How did Vietnam get to this point? Vietnam’s journey from small-scale pilot to national system has been the result of successful collaboration, commitment, and planning. Partnership with the right mobile network operator VietteI, one of the biggest telecom groups in Vietnam, the design for scale-up from the beginning, and the infrastructure at the start of the system are all part of what makes Vietnam a valuable success story. However, it did not come without hurdles, some of which are still ongoing. Inconsistent data quality, limited capacity among health workers to use data for effective and efficient vaccination delivery, limitations in data analysis for immunization program planning, and low uptake of the NIIS among private-sector facilities are key challenges the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Expanded Program on Immunization (NEPI), Viettel and PATH are working hard to address.
The Introducing Digital Immunization information systems–Exchange And Learning from Vietnam (IDEAL-Vietnam) project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will work closely with Vietnam’s MOH, NEPI and Viettel to facilitate a successful transition to an entirely paperless immunization system. The project will also generate and share evidence-based and data-driven learning and experience from Vietnam to inform, influence, and accelerate the successful implementation of similar tools in other countries and contexts.
The IDEAL-Vietnam project shares synergistic objectives with the BID Initiative and the teams are working hand-in-hand. As the world moves more towards digital systems, the BID Initiative and IDEAL-Vietnam believe that communication and exchange are key to success. We intend to learn from the challenges both projects faced, document their differences and similarities, and translate these learnings into guidance for other countries interested in introducing or scaling up an electronic immunization registry.