Ukrainian healthcare professionals step up to save lives with COVID-19 vaccine
UNICEF is helping to train medical workers in Ukraine ahead of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign
Teams of medical workers in Ukraine are being trained to carry out the country’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, thanks to training from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
This week, regional warehouse coordinators from 24 regions of Ukraine and the city of Kyiv took part in a two-day national training on vaccine supply, logistics and cold chain.
The training will also help them to receive, transport, store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
As well as UNICEF and partners, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the World Health Organization contributed to the preparation and implementation of the training. Further support came from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, and the Public Health Centre of Ukraine
A step in the right direction
The training was attended by two health professionals from each region of Ukraine. One has been assigned to oversee the logistics and number of vaccines needed, and the other will manage the technical side of vaccines storage at the regional warehouse.
During the training, participants learned how to store and transport different vaccines, how to ensure temperature control, how to enter data and to view it using an electronic system, and how to manage the supply of vaccines.
Participants wore protective glasses and thermal glasses for one training module, which taught them how to protect themselves while working with the thermal containers that contain dry ice and transport the vaccine.
“This is important knowledge because new mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer, require a storage temperature of -60°C to -80°C,” says Ivan Ivanina, a training participant and employee of Zakarpattia Laboratory Centre
Ivan is responsible for vaccination logistics in the Zakarpattia region, which has one of the highest COVID-19 incidence rates in Ukraine. He is looking forward to the start of the vaccination campaign and is preparing to receive the region’s first supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
“For Ukrainian doctors, every day since the beginning of the pandemic has been a fight and looking for answers to a critical question,” adds Ivan. “How not to get sick and how to help patients? Now the fear has gone away a little. And the vaccine gives hope that this fight will be a little easier.”
Supply and demand
Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed from a central warehouse in Kyiv to regional warehouses across Ukraine. From there, they will be delivered to local medical facilities. These facilities have set up mobile teams that will be issued with a predetermined number of doses of the vaccine to carry out on-site vaccinations.
“MRNA vaccines are super modern and effective,” says training participant Natalia Zhurakovska, who is responsible for the supply and distribution of vaccines in the Odesa region. “This is a new generation of vaccines and they need low temperatures due to the peculiarities of their production to maintain their effectiveness.”
After the training, Natalia returned home to her region. There, the knowledge she gained will help her team to ensure that conditions are perfect for the transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as their timely use.
The way forward
UNICEF is proud to contribute to the training of health professionals and pave the way for a successful vaccination campaign. Along with partners, UNICEF is now conducting the largest-ever vaccine procurement and supply operation in the world.
Health professionals will be the key to its success.
“In the context of vaccination against COVID-19, health professionals have unique opportunities,” says Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “They are those who are vaccinated and those who administer vaccines, as well as those who communicate vaccination issues. Therefore, UNICEF will focus a lot of attention and efforts on working with health professionals.”
Ukraine is part of the global COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative that aims to accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX also works to ensure equitable distribution and delivery to low- and middle-income countries.
As part of COVAX, Ukraine will receive 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for priority populations in late February and early March. By the end of the second quarter of 2021, Ukraine should receive between 2.2 million and 3.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Natalia Honchar, a participant in the training and representative of Lviv Regional Centre for Public Health, believes health professionals must lead by example.
“If a medical worker is vaccinated, they can convince a person with a non-medical education by personal example,” she says, firmly.