Since its creation, Sonar-Global has established its presence and activities on local, national and regional levels. Much of the network’s dynamism results from its regional and thematic hub structure. The Sonar-Global regional hubs catalyze emerging infectious disease governance, preparedness and response actions, and new collaborations between social scientists in three regions where hubs already exist: the Southeast Asia hub in Bangkok focusing on antibiotic use and resistance, the West Africa hub in Dakar focusing on epidemic preparedness and response, and Eastern Europe hub in Kiev focusing on vaccination uptake and hesitancy.
The first Eastern European regional hub meeting took place online on September 15, 2020. The hub’s coordinating institution and member of the Sonar-Global consortium, The Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health in Ukraine (PHC), brought together representatives from national health institutions of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to discuss vaccination uptake in these countries and national approaches to ensuring vaccination coverage within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roman Rodyna, Head of Communicable Diseases Surveillance Department at the Public Health Center (PHC) of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, told us more about the meeting:
Oksana Koshalko (Epidemiologist, Department of Emergency Response and IHR at PHC Ukraine) followed with a presentation on the coverage of routine vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine, the fundamental principles of the national immunization program, and the priority actions for vaccination during a pandemic.
The regional hub’s invited speaker, Dr. Iro Evlampidou (Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) – Fundación Estatal, Salud, Infancia y Bienestar Social (FCSAI), Spain and Coordinator MediPIET) presented the role, COVID-19 resources and activities of EU-DG DEVCO funded MediPIET (Mediterranean and Black Sea field epidemiology training programme network) to increase health security in the European Union. In her presentation, Dr. Iro Evlampidou also reported on vaccination uptake for children in the EU and UK before and after the emergence of COVID-19.
Lilit Karapetyan (Department of Immunization at the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Republic of Armenia) presented data on COVID-19 expansion in Armenia and described the organization of Armenian national vaccination campaigns during the pandemic.
Lia Jabitze (EPI Manager, National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia) presented the Georgian COVID-19 epidemiology and governmental regulations concerning the pandemic. She also addressed national measures for providing immunization services and ensuring vaccination coverage during the pandemic.
Finally, Alexei Ceban (Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Department of the National Agency for Public Health of the Republic of Moldova) described vaccination coverage in Moldova and the impact of the pandemic on regular immunization processed in Moldova.
Participants exchanged best practices and experiences concerning several topics, including school vaccination campaigns (none of the countries conduct such programs), the utility of mobile vaccination teams and temporary vaccination rooms, and upcoming vaccination campaigns for influenza immunization during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the subject of COVID-19, the participants also exchanged experiences concerning containment measures and testing for COVID-19 on national borders.
First and foremost, we will continue mapping “success stories”, to understand how certain countries in Eastern Europe have achieved high levels of vaccination against certain diseases (Moldova, for instance, has eliminated measles – an accomplishment confirmed by the WHO). We will also share these success stories with the broader Sonar-Global network, by posting our updates and examples of tools and materials used in national vaccination campaigns on our regional hub page on the Sonar-Global website. We will further work to identify major gaps in vaccination uptake in our countries, recognize potential common characteristics of vulnerable populations and develop, test and evaluate joint, cross-country recommendations to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We will seek additional funding to conduct collaborative research and interventions across Eastern Europe.
The meeting was followed by a Q&A session.
Valeria is Sonar-Global’s Project Manager, with over 5 years’ experience mounting and managing scientific projects funded by the European Commission and by other major international funders. She is in charge of the consortium management and assures the project’s general compliance with the provisions of the EC grant agreement. In close cooperation with the Project Coordinator, she is the link between the scientific teams and the Project Officers at the European Commission.