Andrea Surette, FHI 360
Virginia Letsatsi-Modise, FHI 360
Kabelo Poloko, FHI 360

Since October 2021, the USAID-funded Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project in Botswana partnered with the country’s Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) to reach more than 23,457 people with COVID-19 vaccinations at drive-through sites, project-supported clinics, and government health facilities, and through mobile and community outreach.

Originally designed to focus on HIV, the EpiC Botswana project started implementing emergency COVID-19 response activities in the country in October 2021. In its ongoing support to the MOHW’s vaccine rollout, the project applies the same principles and lessons learned from its successful experience implementing differentiated service delivery models for HIV programming for key populations.

A nurse supported by the EpiC project vaccinates a client at a drive-through site at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown, Botswana (Gaone Mogaetsho, EpiC Consultant).

The project partnered with district health management teams (DHMTs) in Gaborone and Francistown to establish and run drive-through vaccination sites in October and November 2021. These drive-through services were promoted in the local media (radio and TV), through newspaper advertisements, and on the MOHW and DHMT Facebook pages. Eligible Batswana were able to preregister and wait for just a few minutes in their cars at the sites, making the prospect of getting vaccinated much easier for many people. Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also contributed to vaccine uptake, because many clients preferred a single-dose vaccine.

His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Botswana, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi visited the drive-through vaccination site in Gaborone and spoke to a client about the importance of vaccination to overcome the pandemic. During his visit, the president encouraged everyone to talk to their friends and families about getting vaccinated. As reported in local media, most people who visited the drive-throughs were satisfied with their experience and commended the MOHW and its partners for the convenient approach. 

The EpiC Botswana project supported these sites by providing trained nurse vaccinators, data clerks, vehicles, and drivers, as well as materials such as tablets, vaccine carriers, and hand sanitizers. The vaccinators and data clerks were engaged as paid consultants to support COVID-19 vaccination drive-through activities and were trained by the DHMTs, in collaboration with EpiC Botswana and other partners. The project also provided technical assistance to the DHMTs to ensure that vaccination data were collected via tablets and synced daily into the District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS-2) system.

The involvement of the private sector was critical to the success of the vaccination drive-through sites. For example, the mobile network Mascom donated airtime, allowing data clerks at the Francistown location to capture and enter data into the DHIS-2 system.

A walk-up vaccination site at the University of Botswana Student Center is one of many convenient locations where EpiC Botswana-supported nurses have vaccinated thousands of people against COVID-19 (Gaone Mogaetsho, EpiC Consultant).

Over 12 days in October and November, EpiC supported the vaccination of 2,040 people in Gaborone and 204 people in Francistown at the drive-through sites. But these sites are just one part of a comprehensive plan to reach more eligible people with the life-saving vaccines.

Furthermore, EpiC-supported nurses have vaccinated an additional 21,213 people through mobile and outreach efforts at community locations across Gaborone, Francistown, Tutume, Ghanzi, Kweneng East, and South-East districts since October of this year. The vaccination sites include the University of Botswana Student Center, Sir Seretse Khama Airport, shopping malls, football fields, and government clinics. These mobile and facility-based vaccination efforts will continue well into 2022 in all project-supported districts to increase overall vaccine coverage and support the Government of Botswana’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Cover Photo: EpiC Botswana-supported vaccinators administered 1,250 COVID-19 vaccines over 10 days at the drive-through site in Gaborone, Botswana (Mmegi Newspaper).