Vaccine development in the shortest possible time has been the prime focus while paving the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data has played a critically important role, both nationally and globally, in achieving the shortest deployment period.
The observation was made at a hybrid session titled ‘Data-driven Vaccination Strategy for a COVID-19 Free World’ at the United Nations World Data Forum (UNWDF) 2021.
The event was arranged in association with Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme, ICT Division and Cabinet Division, Government of Bangladesh; Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), Argentina; Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh; Southern Voice; Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, USA and THE CITY, USA on Tuesday.
The discussants observed that similar to other instances of data usage during COVID-19, experiences of using data in vaccine rollouts and related dissemination activities have varied considerably across nations of differing income groups. From monitoring and controlling individual movement to disseminating information regarding vaccination availability and ultimately availing the vaccine, integrating data in COVID-19 reponses has neither been easy nor homogenous in approach. In this regard, it must be mentioned that successful national COVID-19 vaccination efforts may define the recovery path for developing countries in the foreseeable future.
A comparative perspective based on the experiences of a low-income country (Rwanda), a lower-middle-income country (Bangladesh), a high-middle income country (Argentina) and a high-income country (USA) were discussed. These four countries have diverse experiences in undertaking vaccination programmes (public and private) in response to the pandemic where innovative data uptake for decision-making plays a critical role.
Mr Towfiqul Islam Khan, senior research fellow of CPD, attended the session as a panelist and presented the findings from an online poll which was conducted prior to the session. The results showed that online pre-registration facilities and demographic data have been very important and effective in the vaccination efforts. Around 64 per cent of the poll respondents opined that marginalised communities received equal opportunity as regards vaccination.
Dr Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda, stated that Rwanda proceeded using the ‘principle of implementation science’ which was based on knowing the context, barriers, data and evidence-based interventions that have been proved by science and are adaptable for use. The data was collected at the national level and process was monitored by the prime minister.
The vaccine strategy in Bangladesh began with target group identification (gender, age, location etc) using the NID database and a database from Ministry of Finance, said Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i, Bangladesh. In order to bridge the gap between the disconnected communities and digital services, Bangladesh leveraged their 14,000 community clinics and 4,500 union digital centres. Combating resource constraints, knowing priorities, tracking after immunisation and coordinating between different ministries were crucial in Bangladesh's vaccination drive, according to a statement.
Having a strategic vaccination plan open to the public can give a lot of structure to published data. In this connection, Ms Natalia Aquilino, Incidence, programme director, Monitoring and Evaluation, CIPPEC, Argentina; shared four recommendations: i) Coordination strategy amongst regional and national entities – both in a vertical and horizontal manner, ii) Central open data policy to produce and standardise data and address state restrictions, iii) Development of monitoring and evaluation framework and adoption of open government data standards, and iv) Disaggregation standards to allow inter-operability of data and multi-dimensional strategising.
Mr Terry Parris Jr, engagement director, THE CITY, USA, based on the experience of New York, USA said, data regarding COVID-19 related fatalities were scarce and data from medical examiners weren’t being released. This disparity was also reflected in the vaccine rollout where lack of data was resulting inequity in the inoculation process, and this is where CBOs, local technologists and journalist organisations couldstep in to fill the gaps.
The session was moderated by Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, chair, Southern Voice and Distinguished Fellow, CPD.
In his concluding remarks, he emphasised on finding out how the impact of the pandemic will affect different sectors, different communities and groups (LNOBs, PNOBs, vulnerable people, minority groups). In the realm of data, there needs to be a new framework with new partnerships and rules of business with adequate attention to data privacy for an improved data ecosystem.The pandemic has created a greater opportunity to redesign a more resilient national healthcare system and social protection system.
The UNWDF 2021 is taking place from October 3 to October 6, 2021 in Bern, Switzerland. The Swiss Confederation, in cooperation with the United Nations, is organising the event. The Forum aims to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with high-quality, accessible, timely and reliable data. The forum brings together data and statistical experts and users from governments, civil society, the private sector, donor and philanthropic bodies, international and regional agencies, the geospatial community, the media, academia and professional bodies with the aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.