Bringing quality vaccines closer to communities
New cold chain equipment donation helps strengthen the cold chain management system in West Sumatra
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It was a busy afternoon at the Paninggahan Public Health Center – Puskesmas – in Solok Regency, West Sumatra. It seemed more crowded than usual, and something different was now present – a newly installed refrigerator, surrounded by dozens of posters with messages urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, recognize symptoms of certain diseases and get routine check-ups.
The refrigerator was provided to accommodate various vaccines such as BCG, DPT, IPV, MR and other related vaccines. This development alleviates years of obstacles for health workers, including Friska Zonedy, 30, an immunization coordinator at the public health center who is responsible for managing the immunization services in Junjung Sirih Subdistrict.
Friska makes sure that the vaccines are properly stored and monitored for their expiration dates and that the refrigerator is well maintained at around 2–8° Celsius with the newly provided temperature monitoring devices.
"We are grateful for the new vaccine refrigerator,” said Friska. “The storage capacity is huge with two compartments, and the temperature is much more stable so the vaccine quality can be maintained. Now that we have new cold chain equipment, we’ve ended one excuse of low immunization coverage in our community.”
Before the arrival of the new cold chain equipment in the Puskesmas, Friska and other health workers in Junjung Sirih Subdistrict often faced challenges in storing the vaccines, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The central government initiated COVID-19 vaccination in early 2021 and ensured the vaccination process was fast and far-reaching. However, the cold chain equipment capacity was insufficient to store the large number of COVID-19 vaccines supplied to the Puskesmas. As a result, some of the vaccines were stored in household refrigerators with unstable temperatures. It required a considerable effort to maintain the vaccine quality – including their effectiveness if the temperature was not managed well.
“During the first few months of the pandemic, we had to receive an enormous vaccine supply from the district government and, at the same time, had to deal with people’s hesitancy against the vaccine. The only solution we had was to borrow a nearby household refrigerator to save the vaccines.”
As of 13 June 2021, West Sumatra Province had the lowest COVID-19 vaccination coverage of the first dose and the fourth lowest coverage for the second dose nationally.
To strengthen the cold chain management and support the delivery of COVID-19 vaccination services across the country, UNICEF Indonesia procured cold chain equipment donated by the Government of Japan to the Government of Indonesia. A total of 300 vaccine refrigerators were delivered to 12 provinces to increase their storage capacity, including West Sumatra.
Around 27 miles away from Junjung Sirih Subdistrict, where Friska’s work has been made easier, the Head of Disease Prevention Section in Sawahlunto City, Sriwareski Ismal, 39, is also grateful for the cold chain equipment assistance due to similar problems she has faced.
“With this new cold chain equipment donation from Japan, we received considerable assistance in maintaining proper vaccine storage to ensure that quality is well preserved and vaccines are effective until they reach the community,” explains Sriwareski. “High quality vaccines will ensure the vaccine works well in protecting the people who receive it.”
“I used to be hesitant to bring my children for vaccination here as I thought quality vaccines are only available in a big city,” admits Putri Nani, 31, a mother of three children who frequently travels to Java for work. “Knowing that quality vaccines are now available in this village, I am confident bringing them here for their vaccination.”
UNICEF wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan for its support to strengthen the capacity of the Government of Indonesia to manage COVID-19 pandemic through procurement of cold chain equipment and strengthening institutional capacity for cold chain management.