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Sabin-Nursing Now Challenge Immunization Advocacy Champions at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Qatar

Boosting Vaccination by Investing in Nurses

Prof. Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Mohamed Modber, Rafiat Akinokun, Mpho Shelile, and Stacey Knobler (left to right) at the Sabin-Nursing Now Challenge event (photo: Nadia Peimbert-Rappaport).

Three Sabin-Nursing Now Challenge Immunization Advocacy Champions attended the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Doha, Qatar, October 4-6. Throughout the summit they participated in conference sessions and connected with global and national health professionals from around the world, while emphasizing one key point: nurses and health workers are vital to boost global vaccination and must be centered in high-level policy and decision-making efforts.

Immunization Advocacy Champions Mpho Shelile, Rafiat Akinokun, and Mohamed Modber (left to right) at WISH (photo: Nadia Peimbert-Rappaport).

Immunization Advocacy Champions and registered nurses Rafiat Akinokun (Nigeria), Mohamed Modber (Sudan), and Mpho Shelile (Lesotho) spoke at a Sabin-Nursing Now Challenge event on early-career nurse leadership on COVID-19 vaccine equity and acceptance. The event was hosted by Nursing Now Challenge Program Director Prof. Lisa Bayliss-Pratt and moderated by Sabin’s Vaccine Innovation & Global Immunization Vice President Stacey Knobler. They shared their views and experiences around COVID-19 vaccine equity and acceptance as front-line nurses, emphasizing the necessity for community-based solutions to tackle declining vaccine acceptance rates.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other factors have fueled the largest sustained global backslide in routine childhood immunization in 30 years. Immunization has been among the most transformational medical interventions in the history of public health, due to the work of millions of health workers and nurses to deliver vaccines and vaccine information to communities. It is imperative that we invest in local leaders in primary health care in order to increase vaccine acceptance and demand.

“Nurses are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Investment in nursing, in education, is essential. We need to be at the highest levels of leadership in order to influence and make changes.” — Mohamed Modber, registered nurse & Immunization Advocacy Champion 

Health workers and nurses have played a vital role in providing health care and assistance throughout the pandemic, while facing severe challenges. In addition to high levels of stress and mental health issues, decreased productivity, and poor retention, health workers risked potential infection and death every day. 

“I find myself going to work scared because I don’t know if I’m the next person to get infected,” said registered nurse Rafiat Akinokun in a panel session on health and care workers’ mental health. She shared her experience with extreme pressure from the heavy shifts and workload during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although health workers received some recognition for their incredible efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are often overlooked as essential sources of leadership to boost vaccine acceptance and demand.

Community health workers and nurses possess vast experience and vital knowledge that must be incorporated and prioritized in the development of policy and decision-making initiatives. Investing in them is a smart decision to strengthen immunization efforts and health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), to reach everyone regardless of who they are or where they live.

“Your voice is important. You have all the experience required to challenge policies, to inform policies for the betterment of our people’s lives.” — Mpho Shelile, registered nurse-midwife & Immunization Advocacy Champion

Learn more about the Immunization Advocacy Champions and read about the Nursing Now Challenge & Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Immunization Advocates program Storytelling Challenge for nurses and midwives. Explore the Immunization Advocates’ resource hub for health workers.

Nadia Peimbert-Rappaport contributed to this blog post.