March 11, 2012 The week ahead

We have spent the last few days, and the entirety of our weekend, holed up in our hotel putting the finishing touches on just about everything. When we left the US, we figured that we were about 99% ready, leaving us to finish up that final 1% in the first few days here. In hindsight, that 1% was probably closer to 10%. But now it’s done. All of it. We have training materials–in two languages. We have fully functioning and fully translated software. We have 25 computers and 25 fingerprint scanners sitting in 25 backpacks ready to find new homes in 25 Beninese clinics. And the most exciting part, we have our first international VaxTrac employee!

Fortunately, the hard work starts paying off tomorrow. First thing Monday morning, we start training, and we start at the top. We will be teaching the Ministry of Health officials and policymakers in the vaccination program how our system functions. We will get to make high-level health officials treat each other like they’re children about to receive vaccines. The role-playing part of the training is going to be the most entertaining part for us; more importantly, it will likely be the most instructive part for those being trained.

Once we finish with the Ministry on Monday, we will move out into the field for the rest of the week to train frontline health workers. As a key element of that training, we will get to introduce many people to a computer for the first time. Updates over the course of the week may be sporadic due to internet availability, but when present, they should be chock full of photos.

VaxTrac has had many milestones to celebrate over the past few years: winning the Gates grant, successfully testing the prototype, hiring additional staff members. This coming week will rank among those achievements, if not above them. By this time next week, hundreds of health workers will be using the VaxTrac system as an integral part of their everyday work. Hundreds of thousands of people will begin to see improved health outcomes in their communities.

As exciting as this is to us, we have not lost sight that this is arguably the first step–or certainly among the early steps–of a long road to success.

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