Today, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and NITI Aayog launched a USAID-supported ‘City-to-City COVID-19 Vaccination Learning Exchange (CoVLEx) initiative to build a global COVID-19 vaccination knowledge management platform and initiate an exchange of ideas and learnings on pandemic response.
The CoVLEx platform will develop knowledge products such as an interactive web-based knowledge portal, Best Practices Compendium, and organize virtual forums for cities and countries to learn from each other’s experiences. The discussion topics will range from vaccine procurement, governance, digital innovations planning, and management, vaccine supply chain, communications and social mobilization, capacity building, adverse events following immunization, and monitoring and supervision.
Dr. Vinod K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog; Dr. Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India and Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID, India kicked off the initiative. They were joined by Dr. Rakesh Kumar, Chief Advisor, Population Services International (PSI); representative (s) from Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, USAID, state government (s) of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, WHO, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, PATH and participants from Nigeria, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have been thrown into challenging situations concerning response and recovery, particularly those without domestic vaccine production capacities in the Global South. Despite the challenges along the way, several countries have also tried to implement innovative solutions through collaborations, technology, and private sector engagement.
India has played an important role in supplying vaccines to 95 countries under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative very early on in its vaccination campaign under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and currently leads the largest free-for-all vaccination drive in the world. Dr. Vinod K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, said, “The past year captures the true essence of global solidarity, innovation, and collaboration. India can share numerous lessons with countries from its national efforts. Aggregating and implementing proven interventions from Global South will be a welcome step in our fight against COVID-19.”
Dr. Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary, MoHFW, stated, “India’s vaccination drive has been emboldened in the recent months with up to 100 million vaccinations administered within two weeks in September. This result is a culmination of meticulous planning and joint efforts by the Centre and state government (s) on production, procurement, and supply of vaccines complemented with the technological advances such as CoWIN, etc. Government of India will wholeheartedly contribute and support in providing the knowledge and tools to other nations in accelerating their vaccination campaign.”
Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID, India, added, “Inevitably, every country is at a different stage of its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. By bringing together donors, governments, development organizations, and the private sector from 11 countries, we will be able to offer valuable insights around COVID-19 vaccination best practices, challenges, and innovative solutions as we race to vaccinate populations to end the pandemic and better manage future public health shocks.”
Dr. Rakesh Kumar, Chief Advisor, Population Services International (PSI), said, “With new variants emerging, unvaccinated populations continue to bear the brunt of coronavirus. The world has come together in developing vaccines in no time, and there is every reason to equip the global community with the tools to effectively vaccinate their populations. As the virus is novel, and continues to evolve, regular exchange of learnings will give a boost to the national vaccination efforts of various countries and inspire others to follow.”
As part of the initiative, 15 Indian and global cities will initially participate with an aim to engage with more cities in the future. COVID-19 vaccination strategies have the potential to be a game-changer in strengthening national routine immunization programs, which in turn will contribute to delivering effective primary health care services and accelerate progress towards achieving universal healthcare.