How do you effectively vaccinate a nation of 270 million people in a vast archipelago spanning three time zones equalling a distance between London to Moscow?

The answer lies in a digital tracking system.

2020 may have been a year of loss and setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic but news of the COVID-19 vaccines’ arrival in Indonesia has paved the way for unprecedented solutions in technology design to deliver the vaccines vials across the nation.

When the vaccines become available in Indonesia, authorities will have to make sure of the efficacy of the vaccines, ensuring the vials are kept in portable refrigerators under strict temperature controls. With vaccinators trekking through the tropical jungles and crossing waters in remote islands to give people the much-need shot, the logistical challenge of delivering vaccines in Indonesia will only be magnified.

Adding complexity to the challenges, some health experts have said two doses may be required to optimise the results. This means that authorities must make sure that people  come back again to get a controlled second dose of the same vaccine.

To create herd immunity, the government is rolling out a plan to vaccinate at least 180 million Indonesians involving 370 million vaccine vials.

UNDP’s Sistem Monitoring Imunisasi Logistik Secara Elektronik (SMILE), an innovative technological solution that aims to strengthen the immunization supply chain system in Indonesia, will be engaged to ensure the delivery of vaccines across the archipelago.

The vaccines, produced by China’s  Sinovac Biotech, will be processed by Indonesia’s Food and Drug Monitory Agency (BPOM) as part of standard procedures which involves assessment and verification. before the vaccination program  begins. In addition to the 3 million vaccines that have arrived, the government will procure 15 million doses vaccine raw materials by the end of January 2021. These vaccines will be further processed by Bio Farma, before being delivered to health facilities. The SMILE app will help track delivery to health facilities. 

Rigorous preparations for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are on-going and the expedited, safe delivery across the archipelago is vital as the country deals with the pandemic.

Developed in 2018, SMILE aims to strengthen the health supply chain for Indonesia’s immunization program through managing vaccine stocks and quality. This has helped improve efficiency, especially in terms of reporting and monitoring real-time data of vaccine stocks.

“The Ministry of Health is working to strengthen information systems to validate data on the COVID-19 vaccine and prepare for data integration. We are also preparing for the distribution of the vaccine across the country to ensure health facilities receive adequate supplies,” said Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Health.

SMILE has provided frontline health workers with real time information regarding the distribution of vaccines. Following the use of SMILE for routine immunization and to fully support the COVID19 vaccination,  the Ministry of Health  has conducted training on SMILE application for nearly 10,000 vaccine cold chain handlers in 34 provinces across Indonesia. The pandemic has placed limitations on training and preparation for the vaccination program, however, but the urgency of delivering critical care has encouraged health workers to achieve the programs timeline and health targets.

With funding from GAVI, SMILE was initially a pilot program from eVIN, an initiative that was adopted in India, another country facing an even more colossal vaccination program for its 1.2 billion people.

SMILE is the first digital technology to support the Ministry of Health in monitoring vaccines from input to delivery. The application provides vital information that supports Indonesia’s  health supply chain and ensures that No One is Left Behind as the country works towards safeguarding its citizens during the pandemic

Like most countries in the world, Indonesia is racing against time to deliver its vaccines as the country deals with the pandemic. As of late December, according to the Health Ministry, there have been 719,219 cases with a total death toll at 21,452.

Going digital through SMILE may be the much-needed prescription to turn the tide the pandemic

Text: Nadine Hassan

Edited by Ranjit Jose and Tomi Soetjipto

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