Our Best Shot: Frontline Health Workers and COVID-19 Vaccines
Publication Date: 25/03/2021
Fully realizing the social and economic benefits of halting COVID-19 requires investing in a fast and fair global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. CARE estimates that for every $1 a country or donor government invests in vaccine doses, they need to invest $5.00 in delivering the vaccine.
Investments in frontline health workers are a critical component in this comprehensive vaccination cost. Of the $5.00 in delivery costs, $2.50 has to go to funding, training, equipping, and supporting health workers—especially women—who administer vaccines, run education campaigns, connect communities to health services, and build the trust required for patients to get vaccines. For these investments to work, they must pay, protect and respect women frontline health workers and their rights—a cost that is largely absent from recent WHO estimates on vaccine rollout costs. No current global conversations or guidance on vaccine costs includes the full cost of community health workers or long-term personnel costs.
Investing in a fast and fair global vaccine distribution will save twice as many lives as maximizing vaccine doses for the wealthiest countries in the world. Even better, investing in vaccine equality will speed up economic recoveries in every country in the world. For every $1 invested in vaccines in less wealthy countries, wealthy countries will see $4.80 of economic benefit because economies can fully re-open sooner. Failing to make this investment could cost wealthy economies $4.5 trillion in economic losses.
Current global debates are focused so narrowly on equitable access to for vaccine doses that they largely overlook the importance of delivering vaccines—and the key role women frontline health workers play in vaccine delivery. Of 58 global policy statements on vaccines, only 10 refer to the costs of delivery at all—and these are primarily technical advisories from the World Health Organization. No government donors are discussing the importance of vaccine delivery systems that are necessary to ending COVID-19. Only one statement—from Norway—refers to the importance of women health workers as part of the solution to ending COVID-19.
As new and dangerous strains of COVID-19 emerge in countries that are struggling to access the vaccine and control the pandemic, every day we wait for fair global vaccination allows for more contagious strains that spread around the world. The more chances the virus has to mutate in non-vaccinated populations, the higher the risk for everyone. Comprehensive global vaccine delivery plans that make sure the vaccine gets to people who need it—and that those people are ready to get the vaccine when it arrives—are the only way to end this threat. No one is safe until everyone is safe.