Gavi’s Discomfort With Civil Society on Vaccines

The hesitation of letting the door open to include civil society organizations, to effectively contribute to defining discussions on vaccines for the pandemic, especially for a massive immunization agency, is perplexing.

Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance has vaccinated more than 820 million children, is backed by the most powerful funders of global health, and has received nearly $2 billion in pledges every year for the last few years[1]. Why is one of the biggest agencies in global health, wary of activists?

Geneva Health Files tried to understand the reasons behind Gavi’s insistence on excluding Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on COVID-19 vaccines’ discussions. According to several people who work on CSO matters, Gavi has traditionally not engaged with CSOs effectively and the pandemic hasn’t changed that much. It appears this lack of CSO engagement is based on inadequate appreciation, and worse, distrust of what civil society does and can bring to Gavi’s operations, sources say.

THE STORY SO FAR

CSOs have pushed for greater involvement in engaging with the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator (ACT Accelerator), and specifically, the COVAX Facility. But they have not had much success. It makes especially intriguing given that CSOs, have been integrated well into the activities of the others pillars of the ACT Acclerator – on therapeutics, diagnostics and Health Systems Strengthening. Given the tremendous interest on vaccines for the pandemic, it becomes critical to incorporate the voices from the ground that CSOs represent, experts are of the view.

It is understood that the top leadership of Gavi, is of the opinion that CSOs already have a representation on its Board and that it is sufficient.

Image Source: Gavi Annual Report 2019

Some allege that industry interests prevent Gavi letting in CSOs into these “technical” discussions. Industry representatives associated with the vaccines pillar, allegedly fear that disclosing confidential commercial information during these discussions may somehow get leaked, if CSOs are also present in these meetings.

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