PHC and COVID-19 Vaccination

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked unprecedented scientific speed, collaboration and investment to develop the vaccines that will be essential to ending the current crisis. As countries and manufacturers work to address the urgent need for these lifesaving tools, they now face the monumental task of delivering them. 

As the front line of a country’s health system and the gold standard for community-centered health services, primary health care (PHC) has a vital role to play in ensuring the rollout takes place rapidly, safely and equitably. Vaccination strategies that marshal PHC’s focus on meeting people’s needs can build support for and confidence in vaccines and ensure they are distributed to all.  

With billions of dollars flowing to COVID vaccination efforts, PHC-centered vaccination strategies have another benefit that we cannot afford to ignore: they can bolster and build effective health systems for the long term, ensuring we emerge from the pandemic stronger. Achieving every major global health goal – from strengthening global health security, to ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, to reducing maternal and child mortality and preventing chronic conditions – depends on strong health systems centered around PHC.  This is the moment to act.

PHCPI is thrilled to launch an important two-part Improvement Strategy on PHC’s vital role in COVID-19 vaccination. This Improvement Strategy, spearheaded by our partners at Ariadne Labs, compiles the most current global guidance and country experiences to demonstrate how countries can maximize scarce resources by leveraging PHC systems and approaches in vaccine delivery now, while building resilience and capacity to meet communities' future needs. 
Maintaining vaccine confidence and ensuring equal access to vaccines are two of the biggest barriers currently facing countries’ response to COVID-19. As outlined in the resource, strong PHC can help countries overcome these challenges and shape an effective, equitable approach to COVID-19 vaccination by:

  • Increasing confidence and interest in COVID-19 vaccines by equipping communities with timely, accurate information through trusted, long-term relationships with providers.
  • Delivering vaccines safely and equitably to communities, either through existing supply chains or proactive outreach with networks of community health workers.
  • Informing key decisions around where and how to allocate vaccines by providing key data and insights on where needs are greatest.
  • Helping countries monitor whether they are meeting their vaccine targets, continuously informing how they prioritize and allocate resources.

The resource also outlines the ways in which the COVID vaccination effort can build stronger primary health care for the future by:

  • Building respect and trust between patients and providers, and improving providers’ understanding of the community’s many health needs.
  • Strengthening surveillance and information systems for the long-term, improving data systems that can track the care of individuals, in addition to population metrics.
  • Formalizing social accountability mechanisms and collaboration among diverse sectors that make health systems more responsive and effective.
  • Strengthening quality management infrastructure and building sustainable supply chains.
  • Growing the size and capabilities of the health workforce.

As the world strives to end the COVID-19 pandemic, grounding the response and recovery in primary health care will provide the foundation for a healthier, more equitable future for all.