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In a ground-breaking development, a cost-effective strategy to enhance COVID-19 vaccination rates among rural populations in developing countries has been unveiled in a recent study published in Nature. Titled "Last-mile delivery increases vaccine uptake in Sierra Leone," the research, conducted by a collaborative team from the International Growth Centre, University of Oxford, Yale University School of Management, and Wageningen University, introduces a simple yet widely applicable intervention to enhance vaccine accessibility.

Large group of people in circle waiting for vaccination in Sierra Leona

The study, conducted in Sierra Leone in 2022, comes at a critical time as developing countries grapple with the aftermath of the economic and health shocks induced by COVID-19. With disruptions to routine immunisation campaigns and increased risks of future pandemic outbreaks, the research offers a timely solution to maximise resources, reduce vaccination campaign costs, and promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

One of the co-authors of the study, Niccolò Meriggi who is a postdoctoral research fellow (Economics) at Oxford University said: "Our research shows that access was a binding constraint to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in remote areas of Sierra Leone. Access, both to the health product and relevant information, is crucial to achieving vaccine equity in developing countries and will likely be relevant to the new malaria vaccine roll-out and other health products and services.”

To address the challenge of low vaccination rates in rural areas, the research team partnered with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and international NGO Concern Worldwide. Employing a randomised controlled trial involving over 20,000 Sierra Leoneans in 150 rural towns, health workers took vaccines directly to communities, setting up temporary vaccination sites, providing information, and administering doses.


Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.