Presidents' Letter - Vaccines: Primary Health Care Left Equity Behind?

Although they may be under pressure to get as much vaccine administered as quickly as possible, the PHC professionals, medical institutions, vaccine industry and those defining policy in the WHO-Europe region, cannot and must not leave equity behind.

We all expected inequities, seeing that there was a limited supply of vaccines that needed to reach a really large number of individuals. These are predictable in WHO-Europe countries; diverse systems mean there is diversity in eligibility criteria and difficulty in calculating the vaccine production capacity. We, therefore, need an Agency which is strong enough and which can lead the equity process.

WHO-Europe region countries, which relatively have better infrastructure compared with many other regions, should be able to generate at least weekly data (but preferably daily) to see who is being vaccinated so that countries can be flexible and adjust their plans to improve uptake.

National health departments, institutions, Ministries of Health, need to respond to these data in real-time. This may enable PC leaders to identify where Covid-19 vaccine uptake is not matching Covid-19 disease burden. If disparities emerge then additional targeted approaches to vaccine outreach, education and administration may be necessary.

There was not enough attention to a shared mission, shared vision, and shared sacrifice in the European region, but the PC in Europe should not shy away from the hard work and hard choices to enable equitable distribution of Covid-
19 vaccine.

Vaccinating as many as possible is critical in reducing deaths in this pandemic, but in the push to get as much vaccine administered as quickly as possible, the WHO-Europe Region cannot and must not leave equity behind.

Mehmet Ungan
WONCA President