Funding Sources for Mass Vaccination Sites: Options and Opportunities

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By Stephanie Schorow for the Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaborative

The challenges of setting up and running a COVID-19 mass vaccination site are myriad. Organizers must find a suitable location, hire or bring in qualified staff, do outreach, and obtain and maintain a good supply of the vaccine.

All this takes money as well as the energy of staff and volunteers. In low- to middle-income countries, resources may be already stretched tight. As of Jan. 3, 2022, about 92 World Health Organization member states have vaccinated less than 40 percent of their population and 36 have vaccinated less than 10 percent.

But there are options. The Jan. 21, and Jan. 28, 2022, meetings of the Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaboration (GMVSC) – an initiative by Ariadne Labs and the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Boost Community – focused on presenting information about funding sources for setting up mass vaccination sites. 

In particular, presenters detailed the resources available from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that has helped vaccinate more than 888 million children in the world’s poorest countries. “The main objective of all of us is to reach each and every person with a COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Imran Mirza, a Health Specialist at UNICEF. However, “establishing the site is one thing. Maintaining and running the site is another.” 

Gavi launched the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Support Needs-Based Window to cover programmatic and funding gaps in countries’ plans to scale up COVID-19 vaccine delivery through the end of 2022. Sixty-one Gavi COVAX Advanced Market Commitment countries are eligible to apply for funding from the $400 million available.

Disbursements have already been made or targeted for Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Syria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, and Mauritania. Amounts requested range from about $440,000 to more than $53 million for vaccination efforts.

Mona Cailler of Gavi explained that countries have two pathways for requesting funds: an extensive full request and a short-term request for urgent needs, awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are specific guidelines and timelines for each kind of request. Requests must be made through the federal level, such as a ministry of health, and will be administered through the government. Countries may request both kinds of funds and make multiple requests. NGOs are not eligible to apply. Regional governments can apply, as long as the request is made through the federal level. The aim is to avoid overlapping applications.

“If you consider a request very urgent, you can apply for a short term (request) for specific items,” Cailler explained. “If you can wait a few weeks, you should make the full request.” While the guidelines may be strict, “We try to dispense as fast as possible.” Short-term applications can be processed in as little as 10 days, while the full-request applications can often be done in less than 50 days. Access application documents here.

Additionally, conflict countries may use a “humanitarian buffer” mechanism in which a partner can apply directly for funds. See 

Ulla Griffiths, senior advisor, Costing and Finance, UNICEF, said that vaccination groups are actively reaching out to donors through various networks and that “there are many donors in this space.” 

Key Takeaways from Dr. Mirza

  • Rather than convert a site for mass vaccination, countries should consider partnering with a private entity with the infrastructure to set up a site. “You don’t have to construct a new building,” Mirza said. 
  • They should try to establish a site in an urban residential area, rather than a rural area; if not arrange for transportation.
  • But one size does not fit all; delivery strategies will need to be adapted based on population demographics, resources, risk profiles, vaccine availability and other factors. 
  • Make plans before vaccines arrive and make special efforts not to mix vaccine types.
  • Scheduling shots should take into account the time it takes to sanitize patient areas. 
  • If vaccinating a huge number of people, secure appropriate storage on site. The vaccine stock must be adequate for a period of time, so as to avoid turning away people if supplies run out. If this happens, it’s likely those people will not return.
  • Bring a sufficient number of vaccinators – just a few people will be inadequate. Have both technical and support staff.
  • A one-day training session will not be enough. Plan to have multiple trainings.
  • Sites should remain open for at least six weeks for first and second shots. It’s better to allow people to receive both doses at the same site.
  •  If vaccination rates rise above 70 percent in a region, then sites can be closed down as health centers may be able to handle the remaining demand.

 The Global Mass Vaccination Site Collaborative was launched as a way for stakeholders directing vaccination campaigns around the world to come together and learn from each other’s efforts. This blog series was created to record and share the learning and insights gained from this collaboration. Read blogs from our previous meetings here.