Statement on COVID-19 Immunization and Equitable Access to Vaccines

News

Jul 23, 2020

Immunization is one of the most successful public health measures of modern times. Annually immunization prevents an estimated 2.5 million deaths globally and reduces disease-specific treatment costs (World Health Organization 2018).

For all the devastation caused by COVID-19, an important lesson is that the balance needs to shift from treating disease to preventing it. Immunization has an important role to play in prevention not only for infants but throughout life as a key component of healthy ageing. Further, it has positive long-term impact, contributing to make communities healthier and promote social and economic development.

Specific to COVID-19, almost everyone is at risk and may require vaccination if given the opportunity. Hence, it is likely that demand will surpass supply. The concern of the WFPHA International Immunization Policy Task Force is the tendency for the rich to acquire and pay for the limited supply of available efficacious vaccines to the detriment of the at-risk populations in low income settings.

Not surprisingly, the race to produce a safe and efficacious vaccine for COVID-19 has been on-going and there are indications that success may not be too far away. An important lesson that experience has taught us from previous immunization programs is that, even when effective vaccines are available, vulnerable persons in low income settings usually do not have access to these vaccines for some time, if at all. There is a myriad of reasons for this state of affairs. These include (among others) high cost of vaccination programs for countries, health systems, families and individual, individual’s poor geographical access to vaccination centres, and inadequate supply of available vaccines due to competition. To worsen matters, GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) indicated (prior to COVID-19) its intention to wean itself off such funding support. Therefore, the WFPHA International Immunization Policy Task Force provides Statement on COVID-19 Immunization and Equitable Access to Vaccines.

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