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Inaugural Canadian SORT IT Program Aims to Improve Accessibility and Uptake of Vaccines

March 12/2024

The launch of the Canadian public health program SORT IT provides critical research support to countries and institutions

By Subrana Rahman, MPH Social and Behavioural Health Sciences (Health Promotion) Student, Class of 2024

As a global partnership based at TDR (the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO)), the Structured Operational Research and Training IniTiative (SORT IT) has emerged in equipping professionals with the skills needed to face complex challenges. With a clear purpose of research capacity building and generating and leveraging evidence for informed decision making to enhance public health, SORT IT is committed to advancing global health equity through collaboration and innovation. It seeks to make countries, “data-rich, information-rich, and action-rich.” Hosted by leading institutions in partnership with experts, SORT IT provides a dynamic platform to enhance operational research methodologies and draws diverse participants from various backgrounds to engage in meaningful change.

In a joint statement by Hayk Davtyan, Director of Tuberculosis Research and Prevention Center and Garry Aslanyan, Manager of Partnerships and Governance at the WHO and TDR, and Adjunct Professor at DLSPH, they said “TDR is very pleased to see a successful start to the inaugural SORT IT program in Canada. In the world where global health no longer has boundaries, SORT IT is a capacity building training which enhances skills creates networks of experts in Canada and abroad.”

This initiative is in its inaugural year for not only involving a Canadian institution – the Dalla Lana School of Public Health – but for also building sustainable capacity to generate and utilize evidence on vaccine confidence. The Canadian SORT IT is supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research(CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada. With the program already underway, active participation from countries have expanded beyond Canada, including Armenia, Kenya, and Rwanda, facilitating North-South and South-South collaboration. Representing Canada is the Peel Region Team looking to investigate vaccine uptake among community-based COVID-19 clinics compared to mass vaccination clinics within Peel Region. The aim is to extract lessons learned from community-based clinics that can be applied and implemented in other contexts with the help of SORT IT.

“The SORT IT program was an enabling program for Peel Public Health to build capacity in operational research. It was comprehensive and fast-paced. It challenged us to identify the right partners and ask crucial questions early in the research process. The dedicated mentorship was valuable in guiding our team towards the completion of a concrete draft of the research protocol in a matter of days and accelerate towards ethics submission. We are excited to continue this SORT IT journey and see the research impact on public health actions.” – Nancy Ramuscak, Jannice So and Dannielle Nicholson-Baker, all from the Peel Region Team.

SORT IT has been divided into three modules with each module designed to catalyse the evidence to impact and as a result contribute to vaccine confidence implementation. Designed to equip individuals with knowledge on research methodology and data analysis, these modules demand a high level of commitment and dedication. The first module commenced on January 15, 2024 and with the first two modules now complete, participants have immersed themselves in a dynamic learning experience, consisting of lectures, real world scenarios, and critical discussions. SORT IT alumni not only facilitated these sessions but also provided their expertise through mentorship. Upon completing modules on protocol development and quality-assured data entry and analysis, participants are currently expected to achieve specific milestones within strict deadlines.

Grant Information

2024 Global SORT IT Projects

  • Nancy Ramuscak, Jannice So, Dannielle Nicholson-Baker (Peel Region Team), Canada:
    • A cross-sectional description of first-dose COVID-19 vaccine administration in community clinics as an intervention to increase vaccine uptake in Peel region, Canada
  • Adeline Kabeja, Rwanda:
    • Magnitude and potential factors linked to Missed Opportunities for Vaccination in children under 24 months old in the catchment areas of two district hospitals with low vaccination coverage in Rwanda, 2024
  • Nyawira Gitahi, Kenya:
    • The role of health awareness campaigns in improving vaccine uptake among vulnerable communities in the north rift of Kenya, in 2021-2022: A mixed methods study
  • Parandzem Paryan, Armenia:
    • Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Regarding HPV Vaccination and Cervical Cancer Among Adult Females (18-45 Years) in Yerevan, Armenia
  • Hesborn Wao and Patrick Opiyo Owili, Kenya:
    • Factors associated with child immunization dropout in Kenya: Findings from the Kenya Demographic Health Survey, 2022