WHO discussed fast-tracking of Covid-19 vaccine rollout in South-East Asia

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The WHO national regulatory authorities and vaccine manufacturers in WHO South-East Asia Region on Friday discussed fast-tracking of Covid-19 vaccine rollout in member countries, as per the official release.

The meeting aims to set out timelines for fast-track registration of the vaccines in countries using the emergency use listing procedures while comprehending the landscape of Covid-19 vaccine production in the region.

“Establishing expedited regulatory pathways for vaccine approval and adjusting regulatory pathways to the type of vaccine that is developed and filed for approval remains critical as emergency use authorisation will precede full licensure,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

While vaccine licensure systems may need to be modified, having standard operating procedures and stipulated timelines for emergency use authorisation would be vital, she said.

The regional director stressed effective coordination, collaboration, and information-sharing.

The Immunization Technical Advisory Group of the WHO maintained that there should be ensured availability of high-quality, complete, and timely Covid-19 surveillance data on all risk groups. This can facilitate decision making for the Covid-19 vaccination drive.

The expert panel of the WHO stated that countries should also leverage their experience in vaccine delivery platforms for adults, including experience with seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccination, and measles, rubella, and Japanese encephalitis.

The panel further said that adjustments should be made to overcome the problem of vaccine hesitancy. This can be done through community engagement and risk communication. Countries should leverage the use of existing networks, including those for polio, to support the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines where appropriate, said the panel.

The experts also underscored the need for all countries to assess available cold chain space and meticulously plan cold chain requirements. This includes necessary improvements in storage, stock management, vaccine delivery strategy, and waste management.

The expert group also made a series of recommendations, including a fast-tracking of the development of national deployment and vaccination plan, the application of guidelines provided by the “Values framework for the allocation and prioritisation of covid-19 vaccines” and the “prioritisation roadmap” to identify priority populations and ensuring equity in the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, especially during the early stages when vaccine supply is expected to be limited.

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