In February 2023 WHO announced a collaboration with Montenegro’s Ministry of Health and Institute of Public Health (IPH) to launch a new initiative: the “Health Caravan”. This is an element of the American Rescue Plan COVID-19 Response Activity in Montenegro, financed by USAID. The aim of this “Health Caravan” is to “promote the benefits of immunisation as a life-saving intervention”. 

Although the focus is largely on COVID-19 vaccination, the initiative also includes other vaccines such as those against HPV and MMR.  

US Assistance 

The US, through USAID, has provided $2.7 million in “urgent assistance” to help Montenegro “detect, manage, and treat” COVID-19. It also hopes to “strengthen and sustain response capacities to mitigate the pandemic’s public health and socioeconomic impacts”.  

The Health Caravan 

The Health Caravan comprises mobile vaccination sites in 4 municipalities: Budva, Nikšić, Bijelo Polje, and Ulcinj. Uptake of vaccines in these areas has been low. Thus, the Caravan will offer “on-the-spot access to vaccines and essential health information”.  

The initiative will take place in February and March and has been promoted across television and radio programmes, in schools, and through “other means”.  

Slobodan Mandić is the Director of the Directorate for the Quality of Health Care in the Ministry of Health, and hopes community members will be able to “get vaccinated”, learn more, and “receive routine health check-ups” from health workers and Red Cross volunteers.  

“For health workers and health authorities, it’s a great chance to understand people’s health needs and the barriers they may experience in meeting them.”  

Dr Mina Brajović, WHO Representative in Montenegro, states that “COVID-19 remains a threat”, particularly as “vaccine uptake is still low in Montenegro”. The Health Caravan will enable health workers to “reach as many people as possible” and make “essential vaccines more easily accessible”. 

“To increase vaccination uptake, we need collective action, partnerships, strong local community engagement, and informed citizens.”  

Dr Borko Bajic agrees that the initiative is “crucial” to “drive vaccine uptake” but also to “build people’s trust in vaccination”.  

For more on encouraging vaccine uptake across the world join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April.