Despite the advent of COVID-19, significant progress was made during 2020 and early 2021 towards achieving Vaccinator Certification of South African HCWs. 

The online HCert (Vaccinology) qualification, developed by SAVIC in partnership with the NDoH, National Advisory Group on Immunisation (NAGI), industry partners, and academics from the SMU departments of Virology, Microbiology, Public Health, Public Health Pharmacy and Management, and Nursing Sciences, was able to continue throughout all levels of the COVID-19 lockdown. The HCert (Vaccinology) is a basic introductory programme for in-service HCWs who work in public and private sector primary healthcare clinics offering infant / childhood vaccination services. There are currently 37 students enrolled in the HCert (Vaccinology), with 9 of these students having submitted their draft Portfolios of Vaccinology Theory and Practice during 2020, 8 of whom are graduating in June 2021, having submitted their final portfolios and being assessed as competent. Click here to view SMU 2021 Virtual graduations.

Improving vaccine services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented SAVIC from holding our annual face-to-face Vaccinology Short Courses (VSCs) in 2020, SAVIC developed new online training materials and an online short course. In the earlier part of lockdown when it became apparent that infant vaccination coverage was being negatively impacted by the lockdown, Prof Hannelie Meyer developed two video presentations (a short and long version) on vaccinating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, SAVIC made a special video presentation on catch-up schedules, and provided this video to the NDoH for online distribution through a Dropbox link  to be shared with all vaccinators throughout South Africa.

Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) training

In September 2020, SAVIC was approached by the NDoH and Gauteng Province for training on the safe administration of BCG, since there have recently been many reports from Gauteng Province on adverse events following BCG administration. SAVIC responded by developing a three-part BCG training package accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa for 8 continuous professional development (CPD) points. SAVIC provided this training free of charge to both private and public sector vaccinators. By 5 May 2021, SAVIC had already completed Part 1 of the BCG training for 96 participants. Unlike the training shared through the NDoH, the BCG training requires free registration

Part 2 of the training consists of an online interactive session where different scenarios are presented and deep level learning is stimulated through complex multiple choice questions which are answered by voting (using Blackboard Collaborate polling), and followed by online in-depth discussions of why the incorrect answers are incorrect, and why the correct answers are correct. For those completing Part 2 and registering for Part 3, this last part of the course consists of face-to-face training and hands-on experience on the safe administration of BCG at the SMU Skills Centre, using simulated scenarios and manikins to train vaccinators on the intradermal injection technique.

The Online Resource Mobilization Course of ECAVI, 26 – 29 January 2021.

Prof Meyer, Dr Musyoki and Ms Nkwinika presented at this course which aimed at helping fundraisers and resource mobilizers to develop concepts of how to sustain their organizations through their shared experience. The course equips participants with the skills and knowledge required to compete in this increasingly difficult resource scarce market. 

The 6th ECAVI Vaccinology Course. Silver Springs Hotel, Kampala, Uganda. 19–23 October 2020.

Prof Meyer and Dr Musyoki are faculty members of this annual course which equips East African HCWs with up-to-date knowledge, skills and expertise on new and current vaccines and immunisation programmes to enable them to deal with current and emerging challenges to immunisation services. During 2020, the course was delivered using a combination of online and face-to-face interaction.

16th Annual African Vaccinology Course – Southern Sun Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town, 30 November–04 December 2020.

Prof Burnett is a faculty member of this annual course held by VACFA, which provides African vaccinologists with essential expertise to support national immunisation programmes; broadens the understanding of the challenges and opportunities in vaccinology at regional and global levels; builds sustainable research capacity for vaccine development and conducting high quality phase I-lV vaccine trials in Africa; fosters communication and networking among African vaccinologists; and discusses the roles and challenges of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups in the strengthening of immunisation programmes in Africa. Ms Nkwinika attended as a participant in 2020

University of Witwatersrand-ALIVE MSc (Med) Vaccinology programme, University of Witwatersrand.

Prof Burnett, Prof Meyer and Dr Musyoki are faculty members of this MSc programme, which aims to train the next generation of leaders in vaccinology on the African continent. The students enrolling on this course are medical, health science and public health professionals with a desire to contribute to reducing mortality and improving health through vaccinations, especially in low- and middle-income countries.aimed 

SAVIC is currently training HCWs for the NDoH’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme. The main objective of the training is to capacitate HCWs by providing key information necessary for rolling out the national COVID-19 vaccination programme. The first phase, in which 7 953 participants were registered, was conducted entirely online through the NDoH’s Knowledge Hub, and was aimed at training master trainers who then cascaded this training through the NDoH Regional Training Centres to HCWs without internet access. By the end of January 2021, SAVIC had completed the first phase of training the master trainers, with 7951 having completed the online course. SAVIC continues to support the NDoH by updating the training materials as new information arises and new vaccines get added to the NDoH programme. By 5 May 2021, 35 922 HCWs had completed the training, either online on the NDOH’s Knowledge Hub or through the NDoH Regional Training Centres. HCWs can still register for the online course on the NDoH’s Knowledge Hub here: https://www.knowledgehub.org.za/form/covid-19-vaccination-training.

Prof Meyer and Mr Mahlaba were part of the South African Pharmacy Council task team that was mandated to develop a generic short course on vaccination and injection skills for pharmacists. The aim of the generic short course is to equip pharmacists with the theoretical knowledge and practical expertise necessary to provide safe immunisation services of the highest standard. Parallel to this, and since late 2020, SAVIC had already started with developing a vaccination and injection skills course for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. The vaccination and injection skills course aims to improve the performance of immunisation programmes and services in South Africa, to positively impact vaccination coverage and reduce the burden of VPDs and ultimately promote and improve public health in South Africa