Introduction: the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic has caused serious disruption to almost all aspect of human endeavor forcing countries to implement unprecedented public health measures aimed at mitigating its effects, such as total lockdown (inter and intra), travel bans, quarantine, social distancing in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Supportive supervision is a functional component of the immunization systems that allows identification of existing gaps, provides an opportunity for onsite training, and document real-time findings for improvement of the program. The control measures of COVID-19 pandemic have also resulted in limitation of operations of the immunization system including supportive supervision. This has limited many aspects of supportive supervision for surveillance and routine immunization monitoring system in the East and Southern African countries. The aim of this study is to identify the effects of COVID-19 on Integrated Supportive Supervision visits for expanded programme on immunization (EPI) and how it influences the immunization and vaccine preventable disease (VPD) surveillance indicators, and its short-term effect towards notification of increase or decrease morbidity and mortality.
Methods: we reviewed the integrated supportive supervision (ISS) data and the routine administrative coverage from 19 countries in the East and Southern Africa (ESA) for the period January to August 2019 to analyze the trends in the number of visits, vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD), and routine immunization (RI) indicators using t-test, and compare with the period January to August 2020 during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results: thirteen countries out of the 19 considered, had shown a decline in the number of integrated supportive supervision (ISS) visits, with 10 (77%) having more than 59% decrease during the January-August 2020 as compared to the same period 2019. Eleven (57%) of the countries have shown a decrease (p-value < 0.05). Ethiopia and Kenya had the highest drop (p-value < 0.000). Six (32%) had an increase in the number of visits, with Madagascar, Zambia, and Zimbabwe having >100% increase in the number of visits. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the countries that have decreased in the number of ISS visits have equally witnessed a drop in DPT3 administrative coverage. Countries with a low proportion of outreach sessions conducted in the period of January - August 2020, have all had sessions interruption, with more than 40% of the reasons associated with the lockdown.
Conclusion: countries have experienced a decrease in the number of supportive supervision visits conducted, during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic and, this has influenced the routine immunization and vaccine-preventable diseases surveillance (VPD) process indicators monitored through the conduct of the visits. Continuous decrease in these performance indicators pose a great threat to the performance sustained and the functionality of the surveillance and immunization system, and consequently on increased surveillance sensitivity to promptly detect outbreaks and aiming to reducing morbidity and mortality in the sub-region.
Keywords: COVID-19; East and Southern Africa; Integrated supportive supervision; routine immunization; surveillance; vaccine preventable diseases.
Copyright: Isah Mohammed Bello et al.