Geneva, 24 June 2022 – The Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance made a number of important decisions this week to drive a renewed focus on equity, greater support for fragile and conflict countries and help integrate COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines into other core routine immunization services.
Against a backdrop of a difficult global economic conditions and shrinking health budgets as many countries look to move on from the pandemic, Board members stressed the need to protect and strengthen routine immunisation in the face of backsliding as a result of the pandemic. They also urged Gavi to make up ground lost during the pandemic by reducing the number of “zero-dose” children that have never been reached by vaccination. The board also stressed the importance of the first introduction of a malaria vaccine in the near future, of extending the protection provided to girls through HPV immunisation, and of achieving synergies between investments in COVID-19 delivery and boosting routine immunisation.
“In an uncertain world, governments of low- and middle-income countries face instability, fragility, budgetary constraints and macroeconomic challenges at the same time as huge public health challenges,” said Prof José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “In recognizing these constraints, Gavi’s Board has provided unequivocal backing to the organization as it strives to restore and maintain routine immunisation, reach zero-dose children and help bring the current and future pandemics under control.”
In the face of increased protracted fragility, humanitarian situations and economic crises around the world, Gavi’s Board approved a new Fragility, Emergencies and Displaced Populations Policy. The policy allows a broader scope to include displaced populations in Gavi eligible countries, allowing for the first time direct support for humanitarian partners and civil society organisations to operate in areas where Governments are not willing or able to reach.
With many former Gavi-supported countries and other lower-middle-income and IDA-eligible countries facing increasing challenges, the Board approved a rules-based approach to providing dedicated support to help affected countries maintain critical routine immunisation programmes. It also endorsed Gavi’s ongoing review of its approach to middle-income countries in recognition of the challenges they face in sustaining these programmes, alongside the importance of supporting these countries to introduce key vaccines. The Board approved the continuation of this important agenda and updated the list of eligible countries. In recognition of the challenges facing countries coping with economic crises or conflict, the Board also approved increased flexibility for co-financing and a revision of Gavi’s policy on middle-income countries allowing for more tailored support in the face of crises or backsliding.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still far from over, Gavi’s Board ratified an extension of the COVAX Facility – which is housed within Gavi – through 2023. The Board also welcomed efforts to adapt and align support for COVID in line with other Gavi policies, such as eligibility and co-financing. The Board discussed focusing COVAX Delivery Support (CDS) on high-risk populations and additionally approved an ongoing package for pediatric COVID-19 vaccination. Finally, a request was approved to delegate authority to the CEO to approve flexibility to adapt programmes based upon updated SAGE recommendations for COVID-19, contingent on available supply and funding. The Board considered the approach for integrating COVAX into Gavi’s core programmes in 2023 to continue adapting to the evolution of the pandemic.
In addition, Gavi’s Board approved an innovation strategy aimed at improving its ability to identify, invest in and scale up potential breakthrough technologies. That saw an extra US$ 50 million provided to support the scaling up of critical innovations for countries. It also increased funding for Phase 2 of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme from US$ 11.6 million to US$ 12.25 million by reallocating Phase 1 underspend.
Finally, Gavi’s Board recognised that the organisation must evolve to face the health challenges of tomorrow. On the issue of pandemic preparedness and response, it called for an increased focus and encouraged close collaboration with the G7 and G20. It also asked Gavi to play a prominent role and use its expertise to help develop sustainable long-term vaccine manufacturing in Africa, more details of which can be found in the White Paper published this week.
"As we continue to respond to the current pandemic, with new outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases around the world and with the introduction of the malaria vaccine into our portfolio, Gavi's Board has recognised the need to adapt the support we provide to countries in the face of new challenges,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “Gavi's core mission of routine immunisation and its work through COVAX will become increasingly interlinked, as we seek to draw lessons from the fight against COVID-19 for the work we do to protect more people from vaccine-preventable diseases and protect all of us from future pandemics."
The Board remembered Danny Graymore OBE following his sad passing in May. Danny worked for many years at the World Health Organization and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in several capacities, and served as a Gavi Board member from 2016-2020.
Finally, the Gavi Board gave a warm send-off to Helen Rees, outgoing Chair of the Board’s Programme and Policy Committee (PPC), as well as Board members Faisal Sultan (Pakistan) and Susan Elden (UK – leaving the board but remaining on the PPC as Committee delegate). The Board congratulated Anne Schuchat, incoming PPC Chair, on her appointment in this role. The Board also welcomed new Board members including Minister Robert Lucien Kargougou, Burkina Faso, Won Do-yeon, Republic of Korea and Professor Aamer Ikram, Pakistan.