USAID’s CoVLEx Initiative Brings Private Sector Learnings to the Global South
New Delhi, March 2022: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Population Services International (PSI), today, hosted a virtual discussion through the City-to-City COVID-19 Vaccine Learning Exchange (CoVLEx) initiative. Representatives from cities and countries across the global south gathered to discuss the critical role of the private sector in global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
USAID launched the CoVLEx program in September 2021, in partnership with NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, to share tools and best practices as the world races to vaccinate as many people as possible in order to save lives, jumpstart the global economy, and prevent the threat of new variants. The CoVLEx initiative is a unique platform that shares best practices on COVID-19 vaccination strategies among five Indian cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhubaneswar), 10 Southeast Asian and African cities, Hanoi (Vietnam), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Biratnagar (Nepal), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Kampala (Uganda), Cape Town (South Africa), Lilongwe (Malawi), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Abuja (Nigeria), and Nairobi (Kenya).
Through today’s event, public health experts and private sector companies from cities and countries across the global south convened to share their experience on shared issues such as vaccine research and manufacturing, improving the cold chain to efficiently manage vaccine stocks, and providing innovative solutions such as drones for last mile delivery.
In his address as a Chief Guest, Dr. R S Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority shared, “As an architect of COWIN, I was very clear about the crucial role public-private partnership can play to roll out our vaccination program. The pandemic is too big to be tackled by one entity alone. We designed COWIN as a multiparty platform wherein all vaccine providers, vaccinators, and hospitals involved in the vaccination program could be both private and public entities. The vaccination program also included all stakeholders during the design process. The technology solution for COWIN ultimately used an open, inclusive, and inter-operable system that could be enabled by any third-party applicator or even within facilities to start vaccination in a very well-defined API and track progress.”
Highlighting the importance of private sector engagement in strengthening health systems, Ms. Sangita Patel, Director, Health Office, USAID/India, said “The United States, India, and our partners continue to lead efforts to expand the manufacture and distribution of vaccines and diagnostics that benefit people around the world. Global exchanges such as this strengthen our collective actions to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible while harnessing India’s expertise in science and technology for the global good. USAID’s engagement with the private sector, alongside host-country governments and civil society, addresses gaps and accelerates our efforts. Through private sector collaboration—and the market-based approaches it leverages—USAID and our partners enable self-sustaining local systems and markets. Our combined efforts lead to greater knowledge, improved skills, additional resources, and strong local institutions.”
In his introductory comments, Mr. Shankar Narayanan, Managing Director, PSI stressed the need to apply the learnings to broader areas of public health. “One of the major objectives of the ‘City-to-City Learning Exchange’ initiative is engagement with the various stakeholders of which the private sector forms an important one. The role of the private sector is growing increasingly important as we look to drive scale the world over for Covid-19 vaccination. The sector has not only contributed to ramping up the vaccination coverage but has also contributed to the various processes of the vaccine introduction such as vaccine research, development, manufacturing, and procurement, vaccine cold chain and logistics, capacity building of health workers, digital innovations, etc. These learnings must be applied to broader areas of routine immunization and urban health,” he said.
Participants in today’s event emphasized that the role of the private sector will remain crucial to addressing not just COVID-19, but developing innovative solutions to healthcare challenges, and ultimately strengthening health systems to improve services for vulnerable populations.