VL Zambia Partners with Nchelenge District on Last Mile Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccines to Hard-to-Reach Islands

We don’t normally Fist Bump the same country team two weeks in a row, but we’re in a pandemic and this is too good not to share. So here we are Fist Bumping VL Zambia for their collaboration with the country’s Nchelenge District in Luapula Province to help deliver the COVID vaccine to island communities. Nchelenge is one of the 21 districts where VectorLink will conduct IRS in 2021 in support of the NMEP. This will be the second year that IRS is implemented on the district’s two islands, Kilwa and Chisenga, which are approximately 75 km and 60 km, respectively, from the mainland and can only be accessed by boat. With rough waters limiting the boat’s speed, the journey to each island typically takes about six hours. This poses significant logistical challenges to the implementation of IRS as well as other routine health activities.

VectorLink recently began recruiting seasonal workers to implement this year’s IRS campaign. Due to recent spikes in the COVID-19 positivity rate in Zambia, the NMCP has recommended all health workers involved in the 2021 IRS campaign be vaccinated against COVID-19. As the team made arrangements to travel to Kilwa and Chisenga for IRS recruitment, the Nchelenge District Health Office asked the project if there was space in the boat that project staff and GRZ partners had fueled. The district had recently received an allocation of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines but was struggling with how to get the vaccines to the island communities.

VectorLink agreed. The result? A win-win initiative, which enabled vaccines to be delivered to the islands to protect community members against COVID-19, including seasonal workers who were recruited by VectorLink to support the 2021 spray campaign on both islands.

Nchelenge District Public Health Officer Kadolo Muntanga oriented health facility staff in both Kilwa and Chisenga islands on the use of the J&J vaccines and spoke to prospective spray operators on COVID-19 prevention. Following his address, all 59 seasonal staff selected to support the IRS campaign were vaccinated.

“In situations of disease outbreaks, sending health staff from the mainland to the two islands is a logistical challenge and expensive for the district. It means that funds meant for other programs will be diverted and used to reach these areas for such emergencies. We are grateful to VectorLink for partnering with the district on last-mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccines within the district,” said Muntanga.

Congratulations, VL Zambia for going the extra mile!