Atlanta-based Task Force for Global Health to help with Covid-19 vaccines around the globe

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has invested $10.7 million in the Task Force for Global Health to help set up Covid-19 immunization programs in up to 50 low- and middle-income countries and to start a U.S. Covid-19 vaccine information program.

Both the CDC and the Task Force for Global Health are based in Atlanta.

Most of the countries that will be part of the $6.2 million global immunization program initiative are in Africa, said Dr. Joseph Bresee, the lead for the program, director of the Task Force’s Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI), and associate director, global health affairs, Influenza Division, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funds are part of the total $16.25 billion in Covid-19 supplemental funding allocated to the CDC through three congressional acts.

The countries to be targeted expect to get their first vaccine doses in the next few weeks to a month or two, Bresee said. The first phase of the project is developing work plans for the countries to implement immunization programs based on the countries’ individual financial and support needs, he said. The first country won’t have its work plan mapped for another week or so, he said on Feb. 19.

The initiative will tap expertise from PIVI and two other Task Force programs: the Brighton Collaboration, which evaluates vaccine safety; and the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), which trains field epidemiologists in more than 100 countries.

The countries that PIVI has worked with — which include Kenya, Mongolia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Uganda and Vietnam — are part of the global initiative. The other specific countries weren’t immediately identified, but many of them have reached out to the CDC for support in developing and implementing their Covid vaccine programs, making them the perfect starting point, Bresee said.

“This is the kind of daunting job that requires an enormous range of expertise and experience and a vast array of trusted partners,” Task Force CEO and President Dave Ross said in a Feb. 18 news release. “The Task Force is perfectly suited to take on this kind of crucial, large-scale challenge, bringing together skills across our programs and partnerships to safeguard the health of entire populations.”

The initiative will also help countries monitor and evaluate vaccine delivery, use, timeliness, safety and effectiveness. Information gathered from the evaluation process will be shared with global stakeholders including the World Health Organization; GAVI the Vaccine Alliance, which helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against infectious diseases; and COVAX, a platform that supports Covid-19 vaccine candidate development and manufacturing, and negotiates their pricing, Bresee said. Ministries of health and clinicians in countries around the world will also benefit from the information gathered in the initiative, he said.

The vaccine roll-out will take well over a year in most countries, Bresee said. “There is this chance to learn from the first shipment you get to make your program better for the second and the third and the fourth shipment over time,” he said.

Coronavirus presents a “tremendous” opportunity, Bresee said, noting that 40% of the world’s countries will be introducing vaccines into adult populations for the very first time.”

He continued, “We have this chance to use these coronavirus vaccination learnings to think about developing an adult vaccination program all over the world for flu, for hepatitis, for a variety of things that high-income countries vaccinate adults for but which are not yet readily available in low-income countries. I think there is a tremendous opportunity to develop a sustained approach for adult vaccinations all over the world given this, which I think is exciting.”

The remaining $3.5 million of the CDC investment with the Task Force for Global Health will launch COVIED, a program to ensure Covid-19 vaccine information is accurate, trusted, culture-specific, and equally accessible for all communities and demographics in the United States, according to an announcement.

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