By Zayamu Hassan
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the launch of the Global Vaccination Initiative, a $55 million investment over two years, in order to support the efforts of low-and middle-income countries to overcome demand-side barriers to vaccination to reach at-risk populations.
This initiative is to support country-led efforts to fully vaccinate 90 per cent of the most at-risk populations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
With this new initiative, the Foundation is focusing its global health resources on supporting locally-driven interventions to increase vaccine demand – access, trust, and information – that have been consistently underestimated, misunderstood, and underfunded in the global COVID-19 response to date.
It would also leverage on data from trusted, credible sources to strengthen health systems and ensure they are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable populations.
In a statement, the Foundation said that COVID-19 vaccines still represent the world’s best chance at sustainably managing and overcoming the pandemic, yet two years into the pandemic, vaccination rates remain severely inequitable.
It noted that only 15 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, while high-income countries deploy third or even fourth booster shots.
President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr Rajiv J. Shah, said: “The world has every tool it needs to make COVID-19 endemic for everyone, everywhere — but only if those tools are in the hands of the people who need them most.
“With this new commitment, The Rockefeller Foundation will help countries across the Global South reach at-risk populations, simultaneously increasing Covid-19 vaccination rates and building health systems capable of addressing future Covid-19 outbreaks and other public health threats.”
While global supplies of vaccines increase and stabilize, challenging demand-side issues are preventing countries from accelerating vaccination campaigns.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator estimates that an additional $6.8 billion is needed to support COVID-19 demand generation and expects funding to come directly from countries themselves along with development banks and other international grant financing.
This, the statement said, is occurring at a time when the World Bank estimates that low-income nations need 24-30% of their GDP to respond to and recover from the pandemic’s health and economic crises, but with interest rates rising, their external debt outstanding has grown to more than two-thirds of GDP.
In response, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Vaccination Initiative will invest in projects to generate vaccine demand by focusing on three levers which include Data and digital tools, capacity building and financing.
“As COVID-19 vaccines are now increasingly available to lower- and middle-income countries, the Global Vaccination Initiative is laser-focused on closing the gap in vaccination rates that exists between richer and poorer countries by addressing the root cause: demand,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Chief of Global Public Health Strategy.
“Our approach centers on working together with countries to understand the drivers of demand and barriers to vaccination – only then can we design innovative solutions to swiftly get doses to the most vulnerable communities.”