A good dose of hope: Data innovation helps Indonesia ramp up COVID-19 vaccination drive
02 June 2022
At the beginning of the year, the Government of Indonesia announced that it had administered more than 280 million COVID-19 vaccines doses. With over 79.6 per cent of the national population receiving at least one dose and 54.8 per cent fully vaccinated, Indonesia celebrated achieving its national vaccination target by the end of 2021.
Throughout the pandemic, the United Nations in Indonesia has stood with the people of Indonesia; supporting health workers, delivering essential tools and medical supplies, countering misinformation, and ensuring that life-saving vaccines were delivered at speed and scale.
SMILE: empowering vaccine distribution
Magdalena Pelamonia (Maya) is an immunization coordinator at Kilang Community Health Center, a village in Ambon City, Malaku Province. Her daily work includes vaccinating children under five. During the pandemic, she was assigned to oversee the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Walking is often the only option to reach targeted areas. Maya and other health workers usually go on long journeys on foot, through winding roads, harsh terrain, and coastal areas.
“This journey is nothing compared to people’s long wait for the vaccine,” says Maya.
In areas with limited or no internet connectivity, Maya uses vaccination logbooks to monitor the status of COVID-19 and other vaccination drives. Now, there is one extra step in her process — after she gets back to the city, she transfers the data to SMILE, an innovative electronic monitoring app that supports the work of health workers.
Developed by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health and UNDP, SMILE monitors vaccine logistics by providing regular updates and reports on distribution.
“SMILE is a one-stop application that really helps with my work, because vaccine distribution can be seen in real-time, making it easier to trace,” says Maya.
Once Maya records data in the SMILE app, other details including transaction history, are automatically stored in the data of Ambon Health Office, as well as in the national database. The digital database stores information relating to vaccine stock, the number of used and expired vaccines and vaccination locations.
When the SMILE app was first introduced in Ambon, it was only used by health workers in pharmaceutical warehouses, and those administering immunizations. It is now being used by health workers like Marlen, a midwife, who goes door to door to persuade people to get vaccinated.
“SMILE is a good partner for my fellow health workers and I during the pandemic. The data is presented in real-time and is easy to see,” says Marlen.
Fighting for vaccination and against misinformation at the workplace
Despite the progress of Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine drive, the virus continues to pose risks to many workplaces across the country. Throughout the pandemic garment factories in Indonesia remained open, continuing to produce products and provide job continuity for workers. Although strict health protocols were strictly implemented, many workers struggled to avoid exposure from the virus.
Eltruidis Widyarsanti, a Human Resources Supervisor at a garment factory in Semarang, Indonesia tried her hardest to secure vaccines to provide better protection for the 649 employees at the factory. She was overjoyed when help arrived.
“We were struggling to find vaccines. Thus, we were delighted and grateful when we were informed by Better Work Indonesia (BWI) about this joint vaccine programme for garment factory workers, their families, and surrounding communities. It is important to make sure a safe and healthy workplace that does not only protect workers but also sustain the operation of business,” said Widyarsanti.
Implemented through 12 vaccination centers, the vaccine programme vaccinated thousands of workers under the ILO’s BWI programme.
However, Widyarsanti’s job was not easy. At least half of the employees refused to be vaccinated. Many feared they would test positive, while other worried about the vaccine’s side effects.
Widyarsanti did not give up in the face of this resistance. Instead, she ramped up efforts to spread awareness about benefits of the vaccines by asking supervisors from each division to share accurate COVID-19 vaccine information in their daily briefings. The company also posted flyers and installed a television at the factory’s entrance to continuously broadcast information on COVID-19 vaccines.
As a result, 95 per cent of employees at the factory are now vaccinated.
Indah Rayuningsih was one of the workers who initially refused to get vaccinated. As rampant misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines spread through Indonesia, she feared the vaccines could be fatal. She changed her mind after hearing more accurate infomation and seeing her family doing well after they received vaccines.
“Vaccines are nothing to worry about. Take me as an example, I turned out fine and felt protected. We can all be healthy and safe from COVID-19,” says Rayuningsih.
She is now an advocate for the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, persuading fellow co-workers, families, and surrounding communities to get vaccinated.