With nearly three decades of work experience in international health, Dr. Elizabeth Oliveras is an expert on research, monitoring and evaluation of health development programmes. In her current position as Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning at Jhpiego, she is involved in the Country Learning Hub for Immunisation Equity in Bangladesh. She feels energised to meet with colleagues from the other three Learning Hubs in Mali, Nigeria, and Uganda. In her own words, “Sharing information offers valuable lessons for all.”
The first Zero-Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH) meeting, held in June 2023 at Kampala, Uganda, is a source of inspiration for Dr. Oliveras. Spending three days with an international group of researchers, immunisation experts and policymakers provided an opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences. The conference was organised by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – the organization that initiated the Country Learning Hub (CLH) project in Bangladesh, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda last year. The main goal of the project is to increase access to immunisation, emphasising equity by reaching out to children who so far remain at zero dose or under-immunised. Research plays an important role as CLH is tasked to generate evidence-based, effective approaches and strategies. With her experience, Dr. Oliveras is a perfect fit as a member of the Bangladesh CLH team. Moreover, she worked for three years as an Operations Research Scientist at icddr,b, which is the lead organization of the CLH project for Bangladesh.
At the conference, Dr. Oliveras and the Bangladesh team presented their progress and shared their strategies to reduce the number of zero-dose children. It was a very rewarding exercise since the Bangladesh learning hub had started before the others and many of the team’s experiences were new to the others. One striking example is the age range of children that the Bangladesh team uses for its implementation research. It provides a broader range than Gavi’s definition, based on the experience that in practice it is almost impossible to keep a very strict vaccination time schedule. The Bangladesh team found that expanding the age range provides a more accurate picture of the actual vaccination coverage. Other participants were also impressed by the CLH website that Bangladesh has developed. They appreciated the website as a model for the dissemination of knowledge.
The Bangladesh team left Kampala with some valuable lessons learned from their fellow country hubs. Dr. Oliveras names a few: Mali offered insights into their participatory approach, which could serve as a model for the future. The Nigerian team shared their approach to the accuracy of reporting; comparing data from the registers to health cards. According to Dr. Oliveras, this requires a significant resource investment but this is interesting as it will provide useful insights into the quality of different data sources. She is eagerly awaiting a series of short videos on data use that Nigeria is developing and looks forward to the next Zero-Dose Learning Hub meeting.
For Dr. Oliveras, the Kampala conference experience confirms the merits of international collaborations, i.e. enabling learning from the experiences of others, minimising the chance of facing similar challenges and helping to ensure that experiences can contribute to learning across contexts. This helps to avoid unnecessary replication of studies. Furthermore, such collaborations allow for sharing of resources, knowledge, and best practices, accelerating progress towards achieving zero-dose status.