The success of immunization programs relies heavily on immunization program managers, who facilitate every aspect of immunization programs, from cost-effective procurement of vaccines to the vigilant monitoring of vaccine safety and efficacy. Sabin’s IAIM Network is the largest international network of immunization managers, offering opportunities to connect, share knowledge and strengthen skills required to effectively implement immunization programs. This peer network creates opportunities for immunization professionals to share best practices and address the most pressing topics challenging immunization programs.
In this spotlight series, we will feature IAIM Network members to highlight their accomplishments as immunization managers and learn from their programs. This interview is with Obert Silwimba, an IAIM Network member and chief immunization cold chain officer in Zambia. The following was edited for length and clarity.
What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Obert Silwimba and I work for the Ministry of Health, Zambia as a Chief Immunization Cold Chain Officer. I am responsible for the planning, maintenance and management of the national immunization cold chain system.
How long have you been an immunization manager?
I have worked as an immunization manager for over 20 years, starting with my service as a facility front line health worker at one of the rural health facilities of northern Zambia in 1997.
What has inspired you to continue your work as an immunization manager?
I was recognized for my hard work, and requested to assist with skills development by training front line heath care workers prior to their deployment to health facilities in rural and urban areas of the country. This recognition inspired me, and I realized that my expertise was needed not only by front line health workers, but also by staff whom I reach through on-site supportive supervision and mentorship.
What do you think is the most important thing to know about immunization managers?
It is imperative that both individuals and institutions know about the importance of an immunization manager in realizing and implementing plans, policies, technologies and strategies. Otherwise, everything will just remain on paper.
What is your biggest professional achievement to date?
I have been a part of various activities guided by the National Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC), including developing project proposals for new cold chain equipment, effective vaccine management and the national introduction of new and underutilized vaccines such as ROTA, PCV and IPV. As a result of these efforts, my country has been recognized by regional bodies as a leading example of a country that has been able to expand their cold chain storage facilities and effectively conduct supplementary immunization activities (SIAs).
In your opinion, what are the most valuable skills for an immunization manager?
A good immunization manager should always be updated on technology, planning, strategies and national policies. A good immunization manager should be able to adapt to any responsibility or assignment. They should be a leader, willing to learn and open to learning about the latest developments.
How can the IAIM Network help you as an immunization manager?
The IAIM Network can be helpful to me if it can provide me with resources necessary for my career development as well as be able to support me with opportunities that strengthen my skills such as peer exchange visits either in-country or internationally.
If you or an immunization professional you know has done work you would like to share with the broader IAIM Network community, please nominate them for a future spotlight by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.