Devex CheckUp: What does it take to run a successful vaccine campaign?

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While the pandemic rages in India, the government is aiming to offer vaccines to all adults starting May 1, but supply is still a problem. This week, we’re looking at what is needed to run successful vaccination campaigns across the world — and what stands in the way.

Timely and smart data management helped in the allocation of over 340,000 vaccine doses that Rwanda received through the global COVAX initiative. “Essentially, vaccines hit the tarmac. The next day was spent working on stock management and then, based on pre-prepared lists, [the government] got doses out to every health center in the country,” Anstes Agnew, Rwanda country head at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, tells Sara Jerving.

• Bhutan vaccinated 93% of eligible adults in two weeks — a feat that relied on citizen volunteers deployed across the country. Now the tiny nation, which has recorded only one COVID-19 death, has agreed to send oxygen to India to help with the crisis there. Keep in mind that India has administered more vaccine doses than any other country except for the United States, but that still accounts for only 9% of its total population.

• A cautionary tale: Chile’s early success in vaccinating a large share of its population led to a false sense of security. The country eased restrictions — resulting in a spike in infections.

NGO rules stifle India's relief efforts

As India registers yet another week of more than 300,000 cases every day, NGOs on the ground are struggling to get funding — even as international donors are stepping up to provide aid, India’s regulations restricting NGOs from receiving foreign funds are also stunting relief efforts. Philanthropic organizations are now donating through platforms such as GiveIndia, Amruta and Catherine Cheney report.

The countries sending aid to India

The U.S., U.K., France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden, Russia, Mauritius, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, Bhutan, and Thailand have all stepped in to help India’s worsening COVID-19 crisis.

Several countries have already sent or announced plans to provide emergency aid to India in response to its deadly surge of COVID-19 cases, including oxygen, ventilators, tests, masks, and the antiviral drug remdesivir.

The next hotspot

Worldwide, newly reported cases are at their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. Cases have increased for the ninth week in a row, with as many new infections reported last week as in the first five months of the pandemic. Sara asks experts about other countries where COVID-19 cases could surge:

Turkey: A recent surge in cases may be even worse than reported, with large displaced populations less likely to be counted.

Nepal: The small country saw cases rise by 550% in just two weeks, and has a less resilient health care system than neighboring India.

Costa Rica: Cases have jumped precipitously in recent days and hospitalizations are at an all-time high.

There’s an app for that

• Amid a high-level meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance on Thursday, Jenny looks into diagnostic innovations meant to improve the use of antibiotics, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

• Médecins Sans Frontières has developed an app that would allow lab technicians in LMICs to accurately interpret antibiograms — which show how bacteria samples react to antibiotics — and aid clinicians in prescribing the right drugs to patients.

• Other innovations in development seek to help diagnose infections such as gonorrhea that have shown resistance to antibiotics.

Beyond COVID-19

On Tuesday, Will Worley reported that the U.K. is cutting its aid for polio by 95% this year, a decision that could imperil efforts to eradicate the disease. In fact, the pandemic has put 60 mass immunization campaigns on hold in 50 countries, leaving 228 million people at risk of serious but preventable diseases such as polio and measles — and new outbreaks are already occurring. Still, the problem goes beyond COVID-19: 20 million children missed out on routine vaccinations annually before the pandemic.

Health team … assemble!

A scene from the 73rd World Health Assembly. Photo by: C. Black / WHO

Members of civil society have been asking for more meaningful engagement with WHO and national governments at the World Health Assembly next month. Finally, a series of informal meetings helped kick-start that dialogue, with representatives from civil society and nonstate groups exchanging views on topics such as the global health workforce and WHO’s work in health emergencies — which will be among the issues we’ll dig into as part of Devex’s series of events during WHA 2021.

But after three days of these meetings, civil society representatives said only a few WHO member states were present, adding that they were unsure how their recommendations would be used.

Register: Join us for daily conversations during WHA, with exclusive interviews, expert analysis, and insider coverage of the week’s most important conversations.

Sharing is caring

“Look, I get it: Wealthy countries hedge their bets early on. They didn't know which [COVID-19] vaccines will become available and at what time. But now the vaccines are rolling out, that hedging looks like hoarding. … You don't need multiples of this.”

— Tom Hart, acting CEO at the ONE Campaign, estimates that high-income nations have 2 billion more vaccine doses than needed to reach herd immunity.

What we’re reading

The COVID-19 research rush has resulted in a number of trials too small to provide conclusive evidence on treatments. [NPR]

The European Union is suing AstraZeneca for delays in the delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine doses. [CNN Business]

A congressional commission in Brazil will examine the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials to be investigated for criminal negligence and corruption. [BBC]

About the authors

  • Amruta Byatnal

    Amruta Byatnal is an Associate Editor at Devex based in New Delhi. She reports on global health, gender and human rights. Previously, she worked for News Deeply and The Hindu. She is a graduate of Cornell University where she studied international development.
  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.