Path to Progress

The COVID-19 Response as a Catalyst for Strengthening Health and Immunisation Systems

Vaccinating 70% of the population in every country in the world by mid-2022 is achievable and, if managed correctly, presents an opportunity to increase access to a range of essential health services including routine immunisation.

This briefing by the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) explores the systems strengthening and health financing interventions needed to facilitate both the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as well as increasing uptake of essential health services. It outlines how the COVID-19 response can be a catalyst for addressing long-standing barriers for children – realising their right to health, accelerating progress towards achieving the targets of increased immunisation coverage and ultimately ending preventable child deaths.

Read the Policy Briefing - Path to Progress: The COVID-19 Response as a Catalyst for Strengthening Health and Immunisation Systems

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For the UK as a leading donor in global health, with a central governing role in the policies and practices of major global health institutions, this means undertaking the following actions:

Financial

  1. Ensure that funding for the COVID-19 response is urgently increased and future pandemic preparedness contributes to the strengthening of health systems. This must be additional to existing Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending commitments.
  2. Ensure that all spending towards the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemic preparedness considers and, where possible, leverages wider potential opportunities to improve child health.
  3. Provide ambitious investments for the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines through the ACT-A COVAX pillar and other mechanisms to ensure sufficient financial resources to enable the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
  4. Disburse in full their commitment to provide £330 million each year to Gavi 5.0 between 2021-2025 (£1.65 billion in total) and the commitment of £400 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative between 2019-2023. Additionally, the UK should uphold its existing commitments to financing immunisation programmes through the WHO Expanded Immunisation Program and UNICEF.
  5. Protect funding to programmatic health work, including support for primary health care and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health for the ending preventable deaths agenda.

Programmatic

  1. Operationalise the Health Systems Strengthening position paper and ensure that its ambition and approach are embedded throughout the FCDO’s health programmes and in the upcoming Global Health and International Development Strategies.

Political

  1. Lead dialogue on how to leverage the opportunity at high-level political moments including through the G7, G20 and the UN General Assembly.
  2. Utilise governance and board positions on major development banks and multilateral organisations to ensure aligned and coordinated approaches to health systems strengthening among major global health actors.
    1. This should seek to align dedicated funding for health systems strengthening amongst global health multilaterals and development banks. It should also seek to catalyse investment in immunisation infrastructure and health systems to support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and other essential health services for children.
  3. Reiterate the importance of domestic governments’ protecting national immunisation budgets to prevent backsliding and accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Immunisation Agenda 2030 and SDG 3.2.