Partnering with the private sector to vaccinate for COVID-19 along work commutes
Imagine this: It’s a weekday morning. You head to the train station to get to work. But before you board the train, you come across a team of health care workers offering COVID-19 vaccinations right there in the station. COVID-19 cases are rising, and getting vaccinated here at the station means you won’t need to visit a health facility to gain protection against illness and death. So, after getting the shot, you board the train and get on with your day.
For nearly 2,000 people in Jakarta, Indonesia, this scenario really happened. It was part of a concerted effort to mitigate the surge of COVID-19 caused by the delta variant in August 2021. The Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project, led by FHI 360 and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), partnered with provincial governments in Indonesia to recruit more health care workers and hold mass vaccination events.
The COVID-19 vaccination event at the train station was part of an effort to combat the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which was wreaking havoc in Jakarta. Facilities were full and understaffed, and health care workers were overwhelmed. Also facing severe health worker shortages were West Java and Banten provinces, which were some of the regions of the country most burdened with COVID-19. The surge of cases and the staff shortage presented a new challenge for the country in achieving its goal of vaccinating 70% of the eligible population.
The provincial health authorities in these areas asked the Ministry of Health and USAID for help. The EpiC project was identified to support the Indonesian government’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, as EpiC had been providing technical assistance for the Ministry of Health in addressing the HIV epidemic.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, EpiC mobilized more than 3,000 private sector doctors, nurses and midwives, who administered more than 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines during a nine-month period between fall 2021 and spring 2022.
Three private companies who wanted to support Indonesia’s vaccination efforts and the safe reopening of the country’s economy also joined the effort. They came from different industries but shared the goal of helping the country combat COVID-19: Commuter Train Indonesia, which runs the trains that thousands of people take to work; Grab, a leading ride-hailing platform; and Traveloka, an online travel company. EpiC and the Indonesian government collaborated with these companies to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
Public vaccination events at train stations were led by Commuter Train Indonesia; its subsidiary, PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia, owns commuter train stations in and around Jakarta. EpiC partnered with PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia and the Jakarta Provincial Health Office to hold nine mass vaccination events at train stations in the greater Jakarta region. Local health authorities selected the train stations because of their high daily passenger loads and low vaccination rates in the surrounding areas.
“Most citizens of greater Jakarta use the train to commute to work each day, so trains are packed during rush hour,” says Saskia Mariska, senior technical officer for EpiC Indonesia at FHI 360.
These nine vaccination events resulted in the administration of more than 1,700 vaccine doses. They also raised the public’s awareness of the urgency to get vaccinated against COVID-19, because at that time most people had only received their first dose.
“Most commuters are workers who leave early in the morning and get back late at night,” says Mariska. “It would have been difficult for them to find time to get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they had to go to a health facility. These train station vaccination events were very convenient for them.”
All photos above, which show vaccination sites in and around Jakarta, Indonesia, are credited to EpiC Indonesia. The EpiC project is funded by USAID through PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). It is dedicated to achieving and maintaining HIV epidemic control and leverages its infrastructure and partnerships to address other priority public health challenges, including COVID-19 and mpox.
EpiC Indonesia has also partnered with the private sector to increase COVID-19 vaccination coverage among the country’s older population. Read about those efforts on the EpiC blog.