The below is attributable to Spokesperson Rebecca Chalif:
Yesterday, USAID convened a meeting of senior health officials from donor and partner countries, and top COVID-19 experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Africa CDC, and COVAX to discuss the COVID-19 Global Action Plan Line of Effort 1 to get shots in arms. Executive Director of USAID’s COVID-19 Task Force Jeremy Konyndyk chaired the meeting.
The meeting opened with remarks on the state of the global COVID-19 vaccination effort from Global Lead Coordinator for the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership Mr. Ted Chaiban. The participants then discussed three key issue areas related to accelerating broad-based COVID-19 vaccination efforts while maintaining a strong focus on high priority and at-risk populations: coordinating global supply, evaluating global targets, and lessons and best practices for country acceleration.
Due to the ample global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, many recipient countries’ health systems are struggling to keep pace with the rate of dose donations, and are eager to avoid letting doses expire before they can be administered. Participants noted that countries should seek to maximize the volume of doses administered rather than pursue a zero-wastage standard. Participants also reviewed current practices around bilateral and multilateral vaccine donations, considered lessons and best practices, and discussed how donor countries can better align their future COVID-19 vaccine donations with forecasted demand. There was broad recognition of the importance of COVAX as a multilateral platform for coordinating in-kind vaccine donations, and several countries noted the difficulty posed when donors donate bilaterally without coordinating through the COVAX mechanism.
Evaluating Global Targets
Given the evolving global landscape, participants explored how the global community can address the need for intermediate targets in addition to differentiated targets for certain sub-populations in an evidence-based manner. Participants acknowledged that countries will achieve vaccination goals on different timelines, stretching into 2023. Participants noted the importance of ensuring that populations at highest risk of hospitalization and mortality, including individuals over 60, immunocompromised people, and healthcare and other frontline workers, are prioritized, even as efforts to reach broad-based coverage are sustained. Participants also discussed considerations for pediatric and adolescent vaccination, and how to assess prioritization and cost-benefit considerations in countries with large youth populations.
Lessons and Best Practices for Country Acceleration
Participants observed that accelerating progress toward priority population coverage and broad-based coverage will require a multi-pronged approach: integrating COVID-19 vaccination efforts into existing health platforms, supporting national and sub-national campaigns and mobile vaccination efforts, and emphasizing tailored campaign and outreach efforts targeting high-priority populations. Officials from Ghana and the Africa CDC presented lessons on successful strategies for accelerating COVID-19 vaccination coverage. Participants also presented and discussed successful strategies for generating demand for COVID-19 vaccines among high priority populations, including the individuals over 60, immunocompromised people, and healthcare and other frontline workers. Looking forward, participants noted that lessons from the current pandemic will be vital to building permanent capacity to integrate adult vaccination more fully into national immunization platforms.
At the conclusion of the forum, participants reaffirmed commitments to maintain and increase political will to rapidly and equitably deliver COVID-19 vaccines and accelerate resources and technical assistance to help all countries accelerate vaccination coverage as soon as possible, with a focus on reaching high priority populations.