For every dollar a donor country invests to secure COVID-19 vaccine doses for poorer nations, an additional $5 must be pledged to deliver the vaccines effectively, a new report by humanitarian organisation CARE International has revealed.
The report clarifies that of the $5 delivery cost, half must be dedicated to funding, training and supporting health workers who are critical in administering vaccines, running education campaigns, linking communities to health services and establishing the rapport required for patients to feel safe.
The remaining half should go to childcare costs, health infrastructure, education campaigns and keeping health workers safe.
CARE USA President and CEO Michelle Nunn says this cost is largely absent from recent estimates on vaccine rollout costs.
"Frontline health care workers, more than two-thirds of whom are women, are frequently underpaid, undervalued and are often forced to work in unsafe environments with little to no support,” Nunn said in a statement. “Ensuring these vaccines are distributed fast, fair and equitably is going to be a historic undertaking, but we cannot afford for these critical workers to be pushed to the back of the line.”
Nunn added: “If we don’t invest in these women and their rights, we won’t see the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
Amid the global conversation on #vaccine access, the key role women frontline health workers play in vaccine delivery is largely overlooked.— CARE International (@CAREGlobal) March 25, 2021
Here are 3 Reasons Why Women Health Workers are Key to #COVID19 Vaccine Access👇https://t.co/3GOf1IjFA3pic.twitter.com/DYUwDf7Rd8
Investing further isn’t just the right thing to do; it also makes economic sense.
Every dollar invested in vaccines in low- and middle-income nations will see wealthy countries acquire $4.80 in economic benefits because the investment will mean all economies can fully recover sooner.
According to the report, failing to invest in this way could cost wealthy nations as much as $4.5 trillion in economic losses.
Similarly, twice as many lives will be saved if the world invests in a “fast and fair global vaccine distribution” compared to “maximising vaccine doses for the wealthiest countries in the world.”
The report’s findings are particularly relevant to Australia, which is currently in the process of providing aid and vaccine doses to its northern neighbour, Papua New Guinea.
The Pacific island nation is in the midst of a devastating COVID-19 outbreak, and Australia has already sent over 8,000 vaccine doses and requested a million more be sent in response.
"We welcome the Australian Government’s announcement of extra COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea, but more will be needed to ensure our Pacific neighbours can undertake smooth, swift and safe vaccine rollouts,” CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton said. “We need to look beyond vaccine production and shipment and recognise the crucial role of nurses and community health workers in building trust and getting people vaccinated.”
The backbone of Papua New Guinea’s health system is its community health workers (CHWs). The CHWs provide vital primary health care throughout the nation, in which 80% of the population live in rural areas, and are often underpaid or not paid at all.
The vast majority are women.