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Satellite imagery helps to improve coverage of vaccination campaigns

11.11.2016 16:03

Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group journal, features a research paper authored by Branco Weiss fellow Nita Bharti. The paper titled “Measuring populations to improve vaccination coverage” shows how satellite images that capture short-term changes in population size in communities in the developing world can help vaccination campaigns achieve more complete coverage. In their research, Bharti and her fellow researchers combined satellite imagery, vaccination records, and measles case reports to illustrate how using predictable population fluctuations can help to improve vaccination coverage — a vital factor in combatting infectious disease outbreaks.

Bharti and her co-authors studied a measles outbreak in Niamey, Niger that resulted in over 10,000 cases and nearly 400 deaths in 2003 and 2004. Population estimates available at the time of a vaccination campaign to combat the outbreak did not take into account seasonal migrations into Niamey, which led to an underestimate of the population. The team used satellite images of nighttime lights in Niamey to more accurately estimate the size of the population at the time of the outbreak and estimate the percentage of the population that received the vaccination. The team’s retrospective estimates much more closely matched actual measurements of the coverage of the vaccination campaign that were made following the outbreak.

The researchers further constructed a computer model based on population estimates from satellite images, vaccination records, and measles case studies to simulate measles outbreaks and evaluate the effectiveness of vaccination strategies. They also showed that estimates of population fluctuations based on satellite images of nighttime lights in two other cities in Niger, Maradi and Zinder, could be used to coordinate vaccination campaigns and other public health interventions even when detailed vaccination records or disease case studies are not available. With the satellite data, the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns can be maximized by coordinating with predictable seasonal peaks in population size in the cities, expanding the reach of the campaign to many people who might otherwise have been missed.


Read the paper on the Scientific Reports website

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