After experts called for “transformational change” to the “epidemic countermeasures ecosystem” in March 2023, our interest has been drawn to an initiative by Economist Impact: The Vaccine Ecosystem Initiative. This is described by the group as an attempt to “promote a sustainable vaccine ecosystem” by “examining and reimagining elements critical for vaccine development, deployment, and adoption”. From the context of a global pandemic to the concerning epidemiological climate, the initiative explores current practices to define the future of vaccines at every stage.
Why an ecosystem?
The use of the word ecosystem is particularly effective with connotations of complexity and interconnectivity. From concept to shot in arm, ‘ecosystem’ evokes a sense of delicate dependency at every stage. Indeed, recent experiences have emphasised these relationships more than ever.
“Building an environment conducive to innovation can reinvigorate a previously undervalued field of science.”
5 key pillars
In a report published by Economist Impact, 5 key pillars are identified. For greater detail on each pillar, we recommend accessing the report here. In this piece we explore the pillars and invite you to share your thoughts on this framework.
Research and Development (R&D)
The first pillar covers the research process from the “earliest stages of laboratory research through the Phase III (human) clinical trials” and the regulatory oversight that is “necessary for supporting vaccine development and innovations”. It also addresses the R&D needed to support the delivery of vaccine services, such as disease surveillance, policies, and partnerships.
The second pillar is all things manufacturing, exploring the factors of “timely” processes, regulatory oversight, and “the use of good manufacturing practices at a scale necessary to meet demand”. It covers infrastructure, human resources and conditions, and strict quality control standards.
Procurement, pricing, and financing
The third pillar involves the policies, mechanisms, and partnerships behind vaccine purchasing and pricing. This includes the financing of R&D and implementation of immunisation programmes. Systems that “promote more equitable and faster access to vaccines” are of interest.
Distribution, logistics, and supply chain management
The fourth pillar covers the mechanisms that “enable safe distribution of vaccines”. This includes logistics, infrastructure, and systems. This pillar “recognises that consistently strong and resilient distribution networks, logistics capabilities, and global supply chain management” are needed for equitable and rapid protection of populations.
User acceptance and uptake
The fifth pillar explores the reasons that people choose to be vaccinated and the factors that enable them to access vaccination. This involves health literacy, education and awareness, and the ways that “public trust in vaccines” can be improved.
How well do you think these pillars represent the vaccine ecosystem, and what efforts do you think can be made in any or each of them to promote sustainable improvements?
The Immunisation Readiness Index
Building on this framework, the Vaccine Ecosystem Initiative will launch a new tool later this year, focused on “understanding the state of immunisation readiness”. The Immunisation Readiness Index assesses the “enabling environment for equitable and sustainable immunisation” for both routine and emergency vaccines. The Index identifies “opportunities for enhanced preparedness” by “qualitatively and quantitatively mapping” country-level immunisation policies.
“The Vaccine Ecosystem Initiative and the Immunisation Readiness Index provide evidence-based, actionable insights that stakeholders can implement to create a future that is more resilient to threats amenable to vaccination.”
Join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington next week to hear more from David Humphreys, Global Head of Policy at Economist Impact.