Field Epidemiology Training Program Supports the International School in Cameroon in Vaccinating Against COVID-19

ASD staff member getting vaccinated during the school-wide vaccination day.

ASD staff member getting vaccinated during the school-wide vaccination day. Photo: Caleb Kwyna, ASD Marketing Director

The COVID-19 pandemic has plagued many countries, including Cameroon, a nation of 26.5 million people located in west-central Africa. The Littoral region and its capital Douala, located on the seacoast, was the second largest COVID-19 hotspot in the country.

The pandemic impacted all aspects of life, including educational institutions such as the American School of Douala (ASD), which had to close its campus in March 2020 and shift to virtual learning. With help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the school reopened in August 2020. Soon after reopening, several staff and students tested positive for COVID-19. School leadership encouraged ASD staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but because of vaccine-hesitancy, only 15% of staff initially complied.

FETP Resident Advisor, Dr. Adama N’Dir (left), and ASD Director, Michael Breece (right)

Representing the successful partnership in organizing the COVID-19 vaccine campaigns at the ASD, FETP Resident Advisor, Dr. Adama N’Dir (left), and ASD Director, Michael Breece (right). Photo: ASD staff member

Organizing a COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign at the American School of Douala

In the hopes of increasing the vaccination rate and protecting staff, teachers, and students from COVID-19, the ASD partnered with the Cameroon Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), the Littoral Regional Delegation of Health, and the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to organize a vaccination campaign to vaccinate school staff.

Prior to the one-day vaccination event, a MOPH representative spoke with staff about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine in preventing the spread of the disease. Staff voiced their concerns about getting vaccinated and asked questions about the vaccine. A post-discussion survey revealed that 85% of staff were interested in getting vaccinated. In September 2021, ASD hosted a full-day school-wide event to vaccinate all interested staff. CDC representatives and FETP graduates helped distribute the vaccines.

Cameroon’s MOPH supplied the COVID-19 vaccines for the vaccination campaign. The Cameroonian Government received 337,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen COVID-19 vaccine from the United States Government and a subset of this procurement was used for the ASD vaccination campaign.

Vaccinating American School of Douala Staff, Family, Friends, and Community Against COVID-19

The initial campaign, which began in September 2021, resulted in 80% of ASD staff, including administrators, teachers, support staff, and guards, getting their first vaccines. The event was such a success that it prompted family members, friends, and members of the larger school community to request vaccines for themselves from the school. People were motivated to get vaccinated because they realized that trusted members of their community were getting safely vaccinated at the school.

Overwhelming interest from the community prompted the ASD and its partners to organize a second vaccination day in November 2021 at the school, open to the public. The second event was as successful as the first, increasing the vaccination rate within the school and amongst the community. This motivated the ASD to continue the initiative and invite community members in Douala to get vaccinated at the school.

By October 2021, 92% of the school’s staff were vaccinated. By opening the vaccination days to the larger community, the campaigns not only increased vaccination rates among school staff, but also in the city and the region.

“These efforts demonstrated the power of the personalized nature of this vaccine,” said Michael Breece, ASD Director. “You can talk and talk and talk at people about the importance to get the vaccine, but until someone you really trust gets it, you are not going to get over that hurdle.”

The school is looking for opportunities to host future vaccine campaigns. With their strong established partnership with the FETP, the Littoral Regional Delegation of Health, and the MOPH, the ASD organizers hope to continue vaccinating the community to help protect everyone from COVID-19.