MSD Vaccine Network - Africa (MVN-A)

Partnership objectives

  1. Improve childhood immunization coverage and increase capacity of vaccination programs in Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia
  2. Support collaborative partnerships in developing and implementing sustainable EPI management training programs in these four countries

One of MSD's major programs in Africa, MVN-A reflected the company's commitment to improving access to medicines, vaccines and health care in the developing world. One of MSD's major programs in Africa, MVN-A reflected the company's commitment to improving access to medicines, vaccines and health care in the developing world. Copyright Bill VanderDecker

What are the health needs and challenges?

In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 8.3 million infants each year do not receive the most basic vaccines. One major reason for low vaccination rates in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization, is the lack of skilled health care professionals. As part of MSD's** commitment to the GAVI Alliance, it established the Merck* Vaccine Network - Africa (MVN-A) to develop sustainable immunization training centers in Africa. One of MSD's major programs in Africa, MVN-A reflected the company's commitment to improving access to medicines, vaccines and health care in the developing world.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

As a founding partner in the GAVI Alliance, a historic public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing access to immunization in lowest income countries, MSD responded to this public health challenge by launching a multi-year philanthropic initiative to help strengthen the capacity of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) health workers in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2003, with funding from the Merck Company Foundation and after a competitive grant application process, MVN-A grantees established training programs in both Kenya and Mali. Based on their success, renewed funding was provided to both programs in 2007, enabling both MVN-A grantees to extend training to additional health workers in Kenya and Mali and explore innovative training methods to address emerging immunization management needs. Following a second competitive grant application process in 2007, The Merck Company Foundation provided supplemental funding to enable two new MVN-A grantees to establish immunization training programs in Uganda and Zambia.

The four MVN-A training programs provided mid- to high-level immunization program managers with customized, hands-on training in vaccine management and immunization services. Each MVN-A program was managed and administered by two primary institutions that have forged a broader collaborative partnership of key national stakeholders including Ministries of Health and Education, non-governmental organizations, medical and nursing schools, and multilateral organizations such as WHO and UNICEF.

Lessons learned

The MVN-A programs have found that, while cascade training appears to be an efficient way to reach several management levels, it requires extensive "training of trainers" and targeted follow-up to effectively reach EPI health workers at peripheral levels. Supervisory training can enhance the dissemination of information to peripheral health centers. To maintain high immunization coverage, the MVN-A training programs identified a need to improve supportive supervision practices in each country. Further, they also noted the importance of making public resources available to conduct more frequent, focused training of mid-level EPI managers to support evolving national immunization priorities.     

Summary of impact through December 2013 and forward looking information

From 2003-2010, MVN-A programs in Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia trained more than 1,000 EPI health workers across all four countries. Trainees have returned to their home medical facilities to share their expertise and knowledge with fellow health care workers.

In all four countries, "training of trainers" sessions conducted by Ministry of Health and WHO EPI personnel enhanced the national training capacity of the MVN-A programs. A cadre of local MVN-A trainers is now available to sustain these efforts in each country, supported by the Ministry of Health and other national stakeholders.

As the partnership drew to an end,  MVN-A collaborators advanced efforts to sustain their training programs in close partnership with key national stakeholders. Ministries of Health remain highly committed partners in all four programs, having enlisted MVN-A graduates to conduct operational level training (Kenya, Mali, Uganda), disease outbreak responses (Kenya, Uganda), mass immunization campaigns in camps of internally-displaced persons (Kenya) and new vaccine introductions (Kenya, Mali and Zambia). Coverage surveys have also provided additional information regarding immunization practice and identify factors that helped to improve vaccine coverage.


*Merck & Co. 

**MSD is known as Merck in the USA and Canada

Partnership information

Company(ies) MSD

Partner(s) Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Centre national d'appui à la lutte contre la maladie, Mali, Indiana University, Makerere University, Moi University School of Medicine, Task Force for Global Health, University of Maryland

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Government, NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Women and Children's Health, Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Disease(s) Children's Health, Hepatitis, Influenza, Measles, Meningitis C, Mumps, Paratyphoid fever, Pneumonia, Rotavirus, Rubella, Shigella, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Vaccines

Targeted Population(s) Children, Health professionals, People with low income

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 4

Country(ies) Kenya, Mali, Uganda, Zambia

Start Date 2003

More information MSD Responsibility

Completed date 2012