Resilience in childhood vaccination: analysing delivery system responses to shocks in Lebanon

Ismail, S.A., Tomoaia-Cotisel, A., Noubani, A., et al.
Publication language
Date published
06 Nov 2023
BMJ Global Health
Research, reports and studies

Introduction. Despite rapidly growing academic and policy interest in health system resilience, the empirical literature on this topic remains small and focused on macrolevel effects arising from single shocks. To better understand health system responses to multiple shocks, we conducted an in-depth case study using qualitative system dynamics. We focused on routine childhood vaccination delivery in Lebanon in the context of at least three shocks overlapping to varying degrees in space and time: large-scale refugee arrivals from neighbouring Syria; COVID-19; and an economic crisis.

Methods. Semistructured interviews were performed with 38 stakeholders working at different levels in the system. Interview transcripts were analysed using purposive text analysis to generate individual stakeholder causal loop diagrams (CLDs) mapping out relationships between system variables contributing to changes in coverage for routine antigens over time. These were then combined using a stepwise process to produce an aggregated CLD. The aggregated CLD was validated using a reserve set of interview transcripts.

Results. Various system responses to shocks were identified, including demand promotion measures such as scaling-up community engagement activities and policy changes to reduce the cost of vaccination to service users, and supply side responses including donor funding mobilisation, diversification of service delivery models and cold chain strengthening. Some systemic changes were introduced—particularly in response to refugee arrivals—including task-shifting to nurse-led vaccine administration. Potentially transformative change was seen in the integration of private sector clinics to support vaccination delivery and depended on both demand side and supply side changes. Some resilience-promoting measures introduced following earlier shocks paradoxically increased vulnerability to later ones.

Conclusion. Flexibility in financing and human resource allocation appear key for system resilience regardless of the shock. System dynamics offers a promising method for ex ante modelling of ostensibly resilience-strengthening interventions under different shock scenarios, to identify—and safeguard against—unintended consequences.