There is something about a new year – an opportunity to leverage and build on the successes of the past year or wipe the slate clean and start afresh. The year 2021 is no different and kicks off with COVID-19 vaccines already being administered and promises of new ones. And so we have a vision of a better 2021 – one in which we are able to move around more freely…maybe!
The year 2020 made a compelling case for strategic health purchasing (SHP) and 2021 appears set to build on that. Last year, countries with limited resources (and the pandemic showed us that it’s not just the so-called low-income countries that suffer from this challenge. The rich also cry!) already struggling with limited fiscal space and crippling health challenges, had to deal with an additional burden placed by COVID-19. The handwriting on the wall was clear – increase the fiscal space for health AND spend what you have more efficiently. Given the limited funds available in countries with competing health and other challenges, spending more efficiently became a very attractive option and SHP, a practical, low hanging fruit. This journey towards SHP from different levels of passive purchasing is a narrow, long, winding road but we saw countries committed to it.
Building on that foundation, as we move into these new times, countries have to carefully consider what vaccines to invest in, fund allocation and reallocation for this additional expense, what will be deprioritized and/or reprioritized to accommodate these new costs, what population(s) should be prioritised for vaccination, how to distribute and indeed administer the vaccines, how they will be paid for, how existing vaccination structures will be utilized to roll out the programs efficiently and prevent the mistakes we made earlier in the pandemic – not leveraging existing purchasing structures to pay for the treatment of COVID-19 patients etc.
Using our learning platforms, we will unpack these discussions, including the role of COVAX, global governance for pandemics, and what, if anything sub-Saharan Africa can learn from the global North given their earlier experience rolling out these vaccines. With the bad behavior being exhibited by some countries hoarding the vaccines, we will also dwell on equity in the global purchase and distribution of vaccines. So, stay tuned. If you missed our summary of some other key discussions planned for this year, please click here.
As I round off, I remain ever grateful for SPARC’s partnerships and collaborations.
The value of these linkages and partnerships with government agencies, academic institutions amd other organisations implementing SHP in Africa was evident last year. We leveraged them to continue to generate awareness and increase the visibility of SHP as a means of helping countries make the best use of limited resources in their journeys towards universal health coverage (UHC) and their pandemic responses. To all the SPARC technical partners, network of experts (The Force), policymakers and partners who participated in these, I say thank you. We hope to do more of these in 2021. We already kicked off the year with one such collaboration with Thinkwell and WHO, discussing how capacity for SHP can be strengthened. If you missed it, follow the link in the section below to read some questions posed by participants and our answers to them. We will share the recording as soon as this is available.
Here’s wishing you all a very prosperous New Year!
Continue to stay safe and healthy.
Dr. Nkechi Olalere
Executive Director, SPARC