Arve Henriksen – Groundswell

What is the value of strategy in the middle of a global crisis?

Reda Sadki Global public health, Learning strategy

A new global vision and strategy titled ‘Immunization Agenda 2030: A Global Strategy to Leave No One Behind (IA2030)’ was endorsed by the World Health Assembly less than a year before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Today, the cumulative tension of both urgent and longstanding challenges is stretching people who deliver vaccines. Challenges include immunization service recovery, COVID-19 vaccine introduction, and the persistence of epidemic outbreaks of diseases that can already be prevented by vaccines.

Is this the right time to launch a global strategy – especially one developed before the pandemic – to achieve the immunization goals?

Yes, immunization staff the world over – and the societies we live in – are still reeling from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, in times of crisis, thinking and acting strategically can help each of us stay focused on the global immunization goals, keeping us on the path to equitable immunization coverage for everyone. In fact, my conviction is that it is this focus that could make the difference between short-term Pyrrhic recovery and building back better.

Immunization was already recognized as a success story, saving millions of lives every year. The incredibly rapid development of vaccines to protect from the coronavirus has brought the significance of immunization to the entire world’s attention. Is it exaggerated to claim that vaccines – and the people who deliver them – are now saving the world?

Global partners accountable for Immunization Agenda 2030 are hoping to generate a “groundswell of support” or even a “social movement” to ensure that immunization remains high on global and regional health agendas in support of countries.

One good starting point is for global partners to take time to listen to the people who carry out the daily work of vaccination – and for immunization staff from countries to be empowered to share their challenges, lessons learned, and successes with each other. For such listening to be more than a quaint or condescending exercise requires a strategic focus and commitment to respond to these challenges. That, again, is how Immunization Agenda 2030 may be read and applied – if it is interpreted not as a prescriptive guideline-from-above but as a call and openness to new and flexible forms of action.

Image: Towards Language, by Arve Henriksen – Groundswell.