Immunization: Pulse of A Resilient Public Health System

The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum in partnership with NITI Aayog announced the launch of its adult immunization initiative “Immunization: Pulse of a Resilient Public Health System”.  This timely initiative aims to create a platform to initiate a dialogue among key stakeholders on the role and importance of creating a resilient public health system through immunization among adults.

Despite being one of the top ten public health interventions, vaccines are typically synoynyms with pregrnant women, infants and children. In reality reality far too many adults fall ill or die each year from diseases that can either be prevented by vaccines or the risk can be mitigated. Additionally, there are no national adult immunization guidelines in India, therefore making it unclear as to who should receive certain vaccines among adults. USISPF’s initiative will help India strengthen its vaccine delivery programme towards adults through the following objectives:

  • Adapting global best practices on adult immunization on implementation of vaccination programs for adults & vulnerable groups
  • Building new partnership models around disease surveillance, awareness, capacity building, research, supply chain resilience to support immunization against diseases preventable by vaccines.
  • Developing a national policy on adult immunization.

Through this initiative USISPF plans to host a series of discussions on issues pertaining to healthy ageing, vulnerable groups, vaccinating workforce, protecting healthcare workers as well as at-risk groups, among others.

To kick off the initiative, USISPF hosted a virtual roundtable on April 16, 2021 with senior government and industry leaders including –

  • Dr Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India
  • Prof N K Ganguly, Former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research
  • Dr Arindam Ray, India Country Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Prof Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI
  • Sriram Shrinivasan, National Life Sciences Lead, Ernst & Young
  • Dr Rana Mehta, Partner & Leader Healthcare, PricewaterhouseCoopers Services
  • Sridhar, Managing Director, Pfizer Limited
  • Suchitra Ella, Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech
  • Annapurna Das, Country Head India, Cluster Head South Asia, Sanofi Pasteur
  • Sridhar Venkatesh, Managing Director, GSK Pharmaceuticals Ltd
  • Dr Sanjay Singh, CEO Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd.
  • Dr Srirupa Das, Director Medical Affairs, Abbott India Limited

The Launch saw the participation of over 400 people from various sectors such as Government, Media, NGOs, Public health experts, Industry representatives, Economists, Academia, among others. Discussions focused on vaccine delivery mechanism, in light of the current global health crisis; highlight the need for public and private sector intervention towards immunizing adults to reduce the burden on public health infrastructure; overcoming regulatory challenges to incentivize immunization of adult population.

Dr Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO US India Strategic Partnership Forum welcomed the speakers and participants. Dr. Aghi laid special emphasis on replicating India’s success in polio eradication to reduce burden of VPDs in adult population. Dr Manohar Agnani explained the robustness of India’s vaccine ecosystem and its readiness to support immunization of large population for any future interventions if they are cost effective and for the public good. He also endorsed the recommendation of Prof. Srinath Reddy on the need for robust, responsive and timely surveillance system through epidemiological surveys on deaths, diseases and burden to be able to measure current and anticipate future disease burden to support timely measures. Prof N K Ganguly recommended immunization of elderly with co-morbidities like COPD, diabetes, hypertension, acute kidney ailments etc by saying that vaccination will be a savior to such population. He also emphasized on the need for strong collaboration between public and private sector to create sustainable financial architecture to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to adult population from various economic sections of our society.

Speakers representing industries deliberated on leveraging infrastructure created during ongoing pandemic for immunizing adults against many other high burden VPDs, role of private sector partnership on mass awareness among healthcare workers and larger population on various VPDs common among adults especially high-risk population with co-morbid conditions. Dr Srirupa Das proposed a way forward for private sector partnership on disease surveillance and monitoring by offering strong pharmacovigilance system available with pharma companies. Dr Sanjay Singh, CEO, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals emphasized on the need for creation of National Advisory Group by the Government of India to develop standard guidelines on Adult Immunization.

Dr Arindam Ray from BMGF endorsed the need for a strong disease monitoring system to prioritize immunizing adults. Dr Ray also informed about BMGF future initiatives on enhancing HPV vaccine coverage among adolescent girls through school programme under RBSY scheme which is part of Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY.