Fast Data: The Key to Efficient Vaccine Delivery

UNICEF’s RT-VaMA tool provides real-time data on vaccine rollouts. This data improves vaccine distribution and saves lives.

A child receives the oral polio vaccine in Bomi County, Liberia.
04 March 2022

COVID-19 highlighted the need for quick, efficient vaccine distribution. But, in many countries, access to vaccinations was an urgent necessity long before the pandemic. Vaccination campaigns can be complicated, and governments often struggle to organize and distribute vaccines in a timely manner. Fast, reliable data may be the answer.  

Vaccine distribution requires careful coordination—from ordering the right number of vaccines, to making sure those vaccines reach their final destinations. Governments need a clear understanding of where vaccines are needed and an accurate picture of national vaccination rates during every step of the process. Data is critical for mass immunization campaigns to successfully reach millions of people. Unfortunately, in resource constrained settings, data usually isn’t processed fast enough to allow decision makers to act quickly. Paper-based monitoring simply takes too long. It is also prone to error. By the time information reaches decision-makers, it’s already out of date.

Real-time Vaccination Monitoring and Analysis​ (RT-VaMA) is a digital monitoring tool that can help address this gap. RT-VaMA is a data processing app that enables daily tracking of vaccine coverage, utilization, and wastage. It uses Open Data Kit (ODK) technology to allow data collection on smartphones and other mobile devices. Once data is submitted, it can reach decision-makers fast enough for them to make course corrections and address implementation bottlenecks. RT-VaMA also helps reduce inequity by encouraging distribution to remote populations that ordinarily would not have access to immunization services. Perhaps most importantly though, the innovation does not rely on regular internet connectivity, which is a big barrier to data monitoring in many countries.

UNICEF piloted RT-VaMA in the Philippines in 2019, when the country was facing a polio outbreak. With UNICEF’s support, the health ministry introduced RT-VaMA to 1,500 health workers across the country, teaching them how to collect data on daily immunization rates. Using their phones, these health workers harnessed the ODK software to capture data, even in places without internet. UNICEF turned this data into easy-to-understand visualization dashboards, encouraging quick decision-making at the national level. RT-VaMA became a critical part of the country’s vaccination distribution plan—it informed national vaccine stock levels and quickly identified bottlenecks, ultimately improving vaccine delivery across the country. RT-VaMA was so well received that the Ministry of Health continued to use the technology for subsequent immunization campaigns. RT-VaMA has essentially become the government's monitoring tool of choice. 

Girls in Yemen smile and show their marked finger after being given the novel oral polio vaccine.
A group of girls smile and show their marked finger after being given the novel oral polio vaccine.

The ODK technology—which underpins RT-VaMA—has been successful in other countries as well. In 2019, Uganda used it to deploy a national vaccine programme against measles-rubella and polio. The real-time data allowed the government to do quick course corrections while also saving on costs related to printing and transporting forms. In Nigeria, the technology helped the government vaccinate more than 2,300 rural, hard-to reach communities. In these communities, polio vaccine coverage for newborns rose from 23% to 61%; for children aged 1 to 5, coverage rose from 60% to 90%.

Based on these achievements, UNICEF is developing a toolkit to help more countries strengthen their vaccination coverage. The toolkit will help governments adopt the RT-VaMA solution by providing them with templates, training modules, and other resources to quickly deploy real-time monitoring during immunization campaigns. UNICEF wants to reach as many governments as possible, and the toolkit is a way to empower them to begin collecting accurate, cost-effective data. If scaled, RT-VaMA has the power to strengthen national and local health information systems across the globe. Distributing this toolkit is the first step in making real-time vaccine monitoring possible, which in turn will help millions of children access the vaccinations they need.

RT-VaMA is part of the Immunization Innovation Portfolio at UNICEF. The Global Innovation Portfolios align technical and financial resources to promising projects that can accelerate results for children in key focus areas, including Learning, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Climate Change, Gender Equality, Youth, Humanitarian, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing. By bringing these proven solutions to more countries, UNICEF’s Office of Innovation strives to strategically and efficiently address some of the biggest challenges facing children. 

Continue exploring the Office of Innovation website to learn about the many innovative solutions and technologies the team is bringing to scale.