Harnessing the power of the next generation for better vaccination awareness and uptake
This August, Sanofi is supporting the National University of Singapore’s Pharmaceutical Society (NUSPS), who will be hosting a virtual hackathon, ‘Beyond! Health Hack’, on 7 and 8 August 2020. The hackathon is open to medical and pharmacy students across the region to ‘hack’ a solution on increasing influenza vaccination uptake in the Asia region. During the hackathon, participants will be briefed on a series of ‘real-world challenges’ that stand in the way of influenza vaccine uptake, with student teams brainstorming unique solutions from scratch.
We speak to Ada Wong, Sanofi’s Asia Public Affairs Lead on the reasons behind the partnership and details of the hackathon.
Q: What are the main objectives of the Beyond! Health Hack taking place on August 7 and 8?
A: The Hack will virtually bring pharmaceutical and medical students together from across 18+ countries to brainstorm new solutions and solve unique challenges that represent different barriers on the preventable burden of influenza. Participants will be briefed on a series of ‘real-world challenges’ that stand in the way of influenza vaccine uptake, with student teams workshopping unique solutions from scratch. I’m a huge advocate for empowering the next generation and can’t wait to see the solutions generated.
Q: Why has Sanofi chosen to support the influenza vaccination focused Beyond! Health Hack?
Our support of the hackathon and development of future healthcare professionals is our commitment as a public health partner. Influenza can cause serious complications even in healthy adults. In vulnerable populations such as people living with diabetes, asthma, chronic heart or lung diseases, influenza causes higher rates of clinic visits, hospitalisations and deaths. However, many people are not aware that influenza is preventable via vaccination. When vaccine solutions exist for significant public health problems, we must do more to ensure people are aware and able to access the solution.
Healthcare professionals, especially those in primary care and specialists treating vulnerable populations, can play an important role in improving influenza vaccine uptake – so it is fitting that we empower the next generation of healthcare leaders to make an impact.
Q: Are there any specific challenges or opportunities that participants will be directed to explore?
We are trying to look at the challenges from a holistic perspective – policies, public perception, and even healthcare professional behaviour. For a start, when it comes to policy, access to vaccination has always been a key challenge, especially when it comes to elective vaccination. One of the most significant solutions is to increase vaccination touchpoints by permitting community pharmacists to vaccinate. Currently in Asia, pharmacists aren’t permitted to vaccinate unlike in the US and in many European countries. ,. However, in countries where pharmacists are auhorised to administer vaccines, there has been a direct and positive correlation with vaccine uptake. The role of the pharmacist is one of the tangible areas of exploration for the hack.
Other challenges include lack of adequate and efficient surveillance mechanisms, which hampers accurate assessment of national influenza vaccination programmes, and low awareness of health risks from influenza complications – not many people know that influenza can lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke!
Q: Where can interested parties go to find out more about the hackathon?
A: Registrations for the hackathon are now officially closed. Over 200 medical and pharmacy students around the region have now registered for the hackathon – we even have a waitlist!
The response has been great as the students recognise it as an opportunity to collaborate with the brightest minds in the region and stand a chance to win professional training and development opportunities in the process. It’s also a platform for us to tap into the creative minds of our next generation of health leaders, and to take another step towards creating a future where the burden of influenza is a thing of the past.
For more details, you can visit www.beyondhealthhack.com