Promoting Equity and Good Governance in COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment

Within the context of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, good governance in the distribution of doses remains a key concern. According to PTF’s Chief Technical Adviser Vinay Bhargava, good governance is evident not only when vaccination campaigns cover target groups, but when they are equitable, safe, transparent, accountable, and free from corruption.

On March 29, the Partnership for Transparency (PTF) organized a webinar, hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s NGO and Civil Society Center, to discuss ways to address the equity and governance challenges inherent in the unprecedented vaccine deployment in response to COVID-19. Vaccination programs aim to cover more than one billion adults in Asia and the Pacific. Nearly one hundred participants joined the session from countries in the region, as well as ADB staff. PTF provided the main speakers: Mr. Vinay Bhargava, PTF chief technical adviser, and health sector expert Ms. Giada Tu Thanh, senior consultant in the Human Development Practice at Itad Ltd. They were joined by ADB senior managers Dr. Patrick L. Osewe, chief of the Health Sector Group; Bruno Carrasco, director general and chief compliance officer; and Christopher Morris, principal social development specialist.

Watch the full event here

Dr. Osewe opened the webinar remarking that ADB has launched a $9 billion facility to help its member countries cover the cost of national deployment and vaccine plans. As part of this initiative, the ADB welcomes CSO engagement to enhance the efficiency and results. In her presentation Ms. Thanh discussed the rationale for involving CSOs and the differences they can make. She elaborated on the roles CSOs can play in addressing demand-related barriers including hesitancy, advocacy for equity and resourcing, and vaccine services delivery. She shared the evidence of positive contributions CSOs have made in the Global Vaccine Action Plan operated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Mr. Bhargava’s presentation focused on the roles CSOs can play in enhancing equity, transparency, and accountability in vaccine deployment programs.

Following the presentations, panelists continued the discussion by highlighting the governance risks which have already arisen within vaccination campaigns around the world. While governments have an important role to play in vaccinating their populations, history and data on development effectiveness and anti-corruption demonstrate that it would not be wise to rely on government actions alone. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and communities have a crucial role to play in such efforts, and involving them is paramount to increasing the effectiveness and inclusiveness of any vaccination campaign. CSO roles can include a range of activities, such as assisting with community outreach, improving delivery of vaccines, and monitoring compliance with vaccine allocation criteria.

The panelists concluded that CSOs can complement government vaccination campaigns and pandemic responses to make them more equitable and effective. They can also monitor government actions and hold officials accountable to promote equity and good governance. There is ample experience and evidence that shows engaging CSOs will improve equity, safety, coverage, transparency, accountability, control of corruption, and public trust in COVID-19 vaccination programs, thereby saving lives and allowing for a faster reopening of economies.